Recruitment agency MorePeople, which focuses on technical and managerial jobs in the fresh produce sector, says its latest salary and benefits survey shows the industry is still finding it hard to attract enough new talent.
Managing director Andrew Fitzmaurice says the situation could get worse if post-Brexit immigration policy restricts the supply of overseas workers with the skills the industry needs.
“There’s already a shortage of quality candidates for the types of jobs we recruit for, especially in the technical area,” he said. “If you add any future shortage of EU citizens into the mix, there will be an impact if permanent roles in our sector are overlooked [by immigration policy].”
MorePeople surveyed its client businesses and job candidates with a questionnaire at the end of 2018. The responses covered a wide range of roles but technical jobs accounted for 15% of replies, sales/marketing 18%, ‘operations’ 7% and ‘farm management’ 4%.
Three-quarters of those in technical jobs said they had moved employers in the past five years but had worked in the same industry sector for more than six years. ‘The nature of their skillsets may be that taking candidates from outside the industry is difficult,’ says the report. ‘We also believe, based on our work with universities and bodies such as the Institute of Food Science and Technology, that the industry is not attracting enough new talent.’
Encouragingly, more than two-thirds of technical staff said they felt their employer put a priority on investment in skills and development.
Mr Fitzmaurice said that if post-Brexit conditions meant EU nationals currently working in fresh produce full time started to drift back to Europe, the pool of more highly skilled people to recruit from could be further reduced. “That will be compounded if immigration rules become too complex either for overseas applicants or for their employers,” he said.