Food and farming sector struggles to fill labor shortfall

Kirstie Donnelly, CEO at City and Guilds
Kirstie Donnelly, CEO at City and Guilds

The City and Guilds research, which looked at attitudes towards employment in a range of sectors essential to keep the country running, saw over 10,000 working age people interviewed to gauge their impressions of the types of jobs they would take.

The survey is part of a campaign to encourage better uptake of the current 2.1 million jobs vacancies available in the UK in essential sectors of the economy, which also includes education, construction, transport, health care and public service.

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And while 22 per cent of those surveyed said they would consider working in the broad area of ​​food production, agriculture and animal care, sectors such as the butchery trade – which is suffering marked shortages along with other critical roles that prepare food to go on the nation’s plates including fishmongers, poultry dressers and bakers – were less attractive.

And despite the fact that 15,000 openings are expected in the next five years in these areas, only four per cent of respondents said they would consider such employment – ​​a level of unattractiveness matched only by employment as a refuse collector.

The report also showed that although 45 per cent of those working in food production, agriculture and animal care jobs felt proud of their roles, 22 per cent said they felt shame when talking about their work. However, half of current workers in the sector said that better salaries would make them feel happier or prouder to do their jobs.

Kirstie Donnelly, CEO at City and Guilds, said that across the board, only a quarter of the UK’s talent pool was interested in key worker jobs in any one of the essential industries that powered the nation – despite essential roles accounting for half of all UK employment opportunities.

She said this demonstrated the yawning gap between the jobs which needed to be done and the desire to do them.

“Our research demonstrates the undeniable fact that low salaries, unattractive or inflexible working conditions and a general lack of respect for these critical jobs is having a catastrophic impact on the ability of employers to fill these roles.”

She warned that in the face of a growing labor crisis which was impacting these vital industries and wider society, operators needed to take a long, hard look at how we can make these jobs more attractive.

“To do this, we must improve careers advice to make people aware of the range of roles available within their own skillsets, and the training available, as well as the opportunities to progress in these sectors.”

Donnelly said that low pay and a lack of relevant skills, experience or qualifications had been highlighted as key reasons putting people off working in these jobs, while unsociable hours were also highlighted as a major turn-off.

“We need to address the poor image that is discouraging people from considering these roles by giving jobs the respect and remuneration they deserve in the future.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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