What's going on

Poultry World Soapbox: Joanne Gatcliffe

Collaborate and communicate a positive message

The poultry sector must work together to attract and retain a skilled workforce.

The lack of skilled new entrants coming into the agricultural sector, particularly the pig and poultry industry, is a hot topic at the moment.

Why aren’t we attracting new entrants? And how can we work together to recruit and retain motivated, high calibre people?

With the industry moving on at pace, we need to ensure we’re building a skilled workforce capable of rising to the challenges and continuing to move the industry forward.

The problem in attracting talent arises from the lack of understanding among those not close to the industry, and poor communication on our behalf in not extolling the opportunities.

We’re all familiar with the common stereotype surrounding agriculture. But many don’t realise that behind the wellies, there’s a multitude of job opportunities related to agriculture that don’t always require ‘getting your hands dirty’.

This message needs to be portrayed positively and effectively to our audience, whether this is school children, graduates or working adults.

There are two ways we can approach this: one is to take a proactive role in getting into schools and universities, to outline opportunities and career paths available within the industry. The other is to ensure existing staff remain motivated and interested, offering continual professional development (CPD) through regular training.

STEM NET’s Bright Crop is an industry-led initiative aimed at schools with the purpose of changing perceptions and getting young people interested in a career in farming and food supply. AB Agri is one of many companies supporting Bright Crop with STEM ambassadors taking the positive message into schools.

Graduate schemes also play an important role in bringing new blood into the sector on a regular basis. The purpose being to enlighten successful individuals of the diverse career opportunities available within a business.

With AB Agri, a range of graduate schemes are offered, each with focus around a specific field of interest, whether this be the supply chain, nutrition or commercial business. The schemes vary in length and offer placements giving individuals’ variety, and the chance to develop a range of skills.

Ultimately these schemes are designed to offer long term career prospects, opening doors and opportunities to fast track up through the business, which collectively the industry should be encouraging.  

Accreditation Schemes provide a mechanism for recognition of professionalism and CPD. The Feed Advisory Register (FAR) is such a scheme specifically for feed advisors.  Encouraging employees to be a member of the register brings significant benefits to the individual and also the business.

All members who are part of the register are required to meet specific core competencies to be able to advise customers on animal nutrition and farm management.

ABN, like many other businesses, has also introduced their own set of core competencies which requires the completion of a number of specific training modules. This ensures a skilled workforce is maintained, and also contributes towards an individual’s CPD; crucial to ensuring the workforce remain motivated and feel valued.

We need to make a collaborative effort, as an industry, to make the agricultural sector more attractive.

In the past we, the pig and poultry sectors especially, have been known to stay behind closed doors. But now, more than ever, we need to get over this hurdle, and work together to communicate a positive message to the next generation of workers.