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Australia who will Milk the Cows?

Everywhere you look in Australia there are skills shortages. There is plenty of labour around the world willing to do the work but Australia seems incapable of reaching out effectively to the market place to gain the assistance it needs.

Much of this is through political choice but the commercial sector also carries a high level of responsibility by hanging onto outmoded ways of trying to recruit.

It’s well known I’m no fan of HR as I think it very often does a disservice to achieving corporate goals and advocate board level involvement and then reaching out effectively to the appropriate international markets having first decided what you want and established whether the package on offer stands up to international scrutiny.

The problems are so deep set that acute labour shortages are costing Australia’s farmers more than $150million a year in lost productivity, with rural food producers struggling to find specialist trades workers, food technicians and agronomists.
It has been reported in the Australian press that, AgForce Queensland, estimates agriculture currently faces a national labour shortage of at least 96,000 full-time skilled workers and 10,000 casual workers.

More than 1200 skilled jobs were lost from Australia’s rice industry during the recent drought, with rural service industries now struggling to recruit food technicians, specialist grain millers and laboratory workers, we were recently asked to find 6 technicians to work on butchery line as even advanced robotics can not eliminate all labour. However, 6 weeks after the request we are still waiting for a job description.This is not unusual.

A major farm machinery organisation has told the inquiry there is a ”desperate shortage of agricultural engineers throughout Australia”, pointing to a failure to include farm machinery skills in many tertiary agriculture courses. Again we were recently asked for tree climbers a pretty basic role where we could help but there were so many people involved the request became still born and we won’t work for the glory.

West Australian Regional Manufacturers president Alan Fisher said a student graduating with an agribusiness or agriculture science degree ”now has no formal education in an important area which can make or break a farm business”. Yet again evidence that Australian skills shortages are in part self inflicted as they are in much of the world as educators do not produce the end product required by industry.

The dairy industry has voiced similar concerns, suggesting there is ”no point in giving a person a diploma of agriculture, and expecting industry to value the qualification if they cannot milk the cows”. Pretty obvious really but you do have to wonder!

The Dairy Industry People Development Council said research showed 60 per cent of dairy farms had struggled to fill job vacancies over the past five years, with high staff turnover of casual labour also costing the industry at least $30million a year in lost productivity, recruitment expenses and training. This was a problem the UK faced several years ago and saw an influx of Polish workers to fill the void but this won’t happen in Australia owing to IELTS requirements ( that rule out non linguists.

The council said farmers were now employing environmental science graduates ”due to the unavailability of agriculture graduates” but needed to ”invest significant resources” in retraining.

We live in a crazy world when the demand for talent exists and the supply is willing but you can’t get them to come together in any significant manner.

Simple solutions are staring Australia in the face but we doubt the political and corporate will exists to seek expedient solutions with a preference for bureaucracy seemingly being uppermost.

Let me know if you need a solution!


Author: Chris Slay

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