If you’re in agribusiness, you’ll know that finding good candidates for jobs can be like finding the proverbial needle in a haystack. It’s probably keeping a good proportion of you awake at night.
With recent research showing that Australian universities are producing less than 20% of the agricultural graduates needed to satisfy the job market, it’s a grim outlook in a tightening market.
Agribusiness Sector Growth
It comes at a time when the agribusiness sector is facing a period of unprecedented opportunity and demand, sparked by the rise of Asia’s middle class.
It will be the world’s most powerful group by 2050, and home to 64% of the globe’s middle class. China will lead the way, accounting for 43% of the total increase in demand for food globally.
But how will local businesses keep up with if they are already struggling to attract the right staff?
A recent survey by the Agricultural Appointments group showed that nearly 70% of agribusinesses found it difficult to find the right candidate for their job vacancies.
Of those, 22% said it was very difficult, and 47% said it was somewhat difficult.
What are the main obstacles in finding the right employees according to the survey respondents?
- 63% said the candidates applying for jobs were not skilled enough.
- 54% said their geographic location made it hard to attract the right people.
- 40% said there weren’t enough candidates out there. Full stop.
- 37% said the roles they needed to fill were highly specialised, which had an impact on candidates applying.
- 34% said candidates’ salary expectations were too high.
- 23% said recruitment agencies didn’t understand their needs.
- 9% said they didn’t have enough resources to devote to recruitment.
- 9% said they were unable to offer the benefits demanded by top candidates.
Qualified candidates hard to find
Businesses agreed that the hardest roles to fill were the more specialised ones. That included account directors, agricultural extension roles, agronomists, food technologist, engineers, precision agriculture specialists, quality control roles and senior research scientist roles.
Of the agribusinesses surveyed, 45% said they spent less than $10,000 per annum on recruitment. Half of those surveyed said they seldom used recruiters to hire staff.
Agribusiness: tight skills market strategy
So what can agribusiness do to make it easier to find good candidates?
Employers need to get on the front foot with market-savvy remuneration, according to Dr Ray Johnson, Managing Director of Agricultural Appointments.
“With the emerging skills shortage in Australian agriculture, it is imperative that companies have a method for attracting and retaining new graduates,” he says.
“This takes a significant amount of thought and preparation, and a lot of groundwork in attending university career events to showcase your company.”
He also says starting remuneration must be market-competitive, but training and mentoring young graduates are the key to both making them productive and retaining them in the long term.
“In our experience very few companies have a strategic HR plan around this area”.
CEO’s, General Managers and farm business owners will have to increasingly understand the remuneration benchmarks for their particular area of interest,” he says.
“It will be necessary to structure both short- and long term incentive plans to attract skilled people in the future.”
This may be a challenge, given Agribusiness has historically lagged behind the non-agri sector in effective incentive plans.