With agriculture accounting for approximately two-thirds of New Zealand’s merchandise exports, there is no doubt that the agri sector is a vital and vibrant part of the economy. According to New Zealand Trade and Enterprise, New Zealand-grown produce feeds over 40 million people, with 7,500 animal products and 3,800 dairy products going to 100 countries every month.
As such, attracting skilled long-term employees to the sector – and keeping them in it – is crucial to the success of the overall industry. With an enormous range of opportunities and areas of interest, this shouldn’t be a problem, yet perceptions of isolation, difficulty and a lack of awareness can make this the case. CANSTAR Agribusiness Award winner, ANZ, identified for us a number of perceptions and reasons are often cited as key constraints in attracting quality people to the primary sectors. Key ones include:
- Low wages relative to other professions.
- Long hours and the perceptions this creates for work/life balance.
- The path to business ownership being more difficult with inflated asset valuation metrics in many cases.
- Lack of awareness of career opportunities. Perceptions are often of a choice between physically demanding work on-farm or processing careers, when in reality there is a wide range of opportunities.
- Lack of affinity/passion for the primary sectors as many in the larger urban areas have become disconnected from the sectors.
- Geographic isolation limiting access to certain services (i.e. education), ease of participation in certain activities (i.e. some sports/entertainment) and ability of a spouse or partner to find suitable work.
- According to ANZ, some of these arguments are valid, while others are not. Some may be driven by certain prejudices, perceptions and the urban/rural disconnect.
- “This can be overcome with appropriate marketing and raising awareness of the opportunities through the right channels (i.e. career advisors, recruiters, schools etc) and better connectivity between the agriculture and education sectors (pre-tertiary),” said ANZ.
“One of the more difficult elements to overcome is the salary and earning potential perception. Read any survey of what influences career choice these days and salary will normally be at the very top of the list, especially for the younger generation. Our recent research found this is an unfair perception when other additional benefits are appropriately valued. Top earners in particular have similar earning capacity to other professions.”
It’s certainly worth consideration.