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IN the face of the labour crisis sweeping large parts of the agricultural supply chain, targeting the ‘under-employed’ rather than the ‘unemployed’ was one strategy suggested to Australian and NZ primary producers attending a high-level conference in Brisbane last week.
New Zealand dairy farmer Rhys Roberts was speaking during MSD’s Zanda McDonald Summit conference in Brisbane.
Mr Roberts is the chief executive at Align Farms near Canterbury, a large-scale NZ milk producer with ten dairy farms running about 5000 milking cows in the South Island region. He is a former winner of the annual Zanda McDonald award.
He said his business had last year participated in a NZ study funded by the dairy industry that looked at ways to attract potential employees from outside the industry.
The study’s three key findings were:
- To attract more and better people into the livestock industry, the industry needed to ‘shape-up’ in terms of salary and package
- The industry needed to look at what could be done to make each job different, or less boring or repetitive – such as greater use of automation, and
- Look for potential staff in new places
“Agribusinesses that set themselves up to employ the unemployed can tend to end up with problems,” Mr Roberts said.
“A huge recruitment opportunity we have is among the under-employed. If I look at other nearby dairy farms and businesses, many have perhaps 20 spare weekly labour units (hours) among wives, husbands, children, neighbours wives and others.
In one example, the Align Farms business has employed a local gym instructor who runs his own mobile gym, who had spare hours each week.
“In some roles we’ve tried to move away from full time rosters, instead moving to hourly, setting up a platform that allows us to attract and utilise these under-employed people in different ways,” Mr Roberts told the conference.
“The unemployed tend to come with problems, while the under-employed come with solutions – they are financially-driven and values-driven, and often have transferrable skills.”
“We’ve seen an absolute lift in productivity in our business on the back of that strategy. It’s been a game changer,” he said.
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