Australian food and agribusiness set to soar: how employers can prepare

Despite the challenges that 2020 has dealt Australia’s food and agribusiness sector (F&A), including devastating bushfires, drought, a pandemic and now the subsequent recession, it shows no sign of stunted growth. In fact, a report released last month has revealed that the contribution of Australia’s F&A sector to Australian annual GDP could surpass $200 Billion by 2030, more than 3 times greater than its current value of $61 Billion.

Entitled ‘Capturing the Prize’, the report commissioned by the Food and Agribusines Growth Centre, takes into account the current impact of COVID-19 on the sector to quantify future trends and growth opportunities that – if pursued – could unlock the sector’s untapped potential for incredible growth within a decade. Unsurprisingly, the report reveals that pursuing these growth opportunities is estimated to create an additional 300,000 jobs by 2030 and could completely transform the livelihoods of the sector’s 176,000 businesses, the majority of which are small-to-medium-sized, family-run businesses.

Such a dramatic potential increase in workforce size brings with it many considerations for food F&A employees, such as how to upskill current employees into growth areas, diversifying and appealing to a larger and more dynamic group of candidates as the sector becomes increasingly competitive. Here, we look at some of the attraction and retention strategies that could assist Australian agribusinesses in preparing for the industry’s enormous growth potential.

Future jobs means future skills

An industry that creates more value also creates more jobs, and Capturing the Prize estimates that by 2030, the major food and agribusiness job opportunities could support 842,000 jobs, compared to 542,000 potential jobs in 2019.

While some of the predicted growth areas already have a relatively large workforce, new jobs will emerge across the value chain with continued advancement and government investment in developing sectors. According to ‘Capturing the Prize’ some of these will include technology in smallholder farms, sustainable packaging, food fraud and safety, alternative proteins, and health and wellness. While the report outlines that the current mix of occupations in the food and agribusiness workforce would remain largely similar as compared to today, demand for workers to have technical, managerial and numeracy skills would increase significantly.

For many employers, there could be benefits in upskilling current employees in these areas so they are ready for new technologies and tasks. Equipping the workforce with stronger technical, managerial and numeracy skills could be important to make the most of the untapped value ahead.

Diversification could be key to workforce shortfall

One of the biggest problems facing Australia’s agricultural industry is that it is already facing an acute labour shortage, with estimates that the lack of workers causes the industry to lose $2 million each year. According to a Deloitte analysis paper, this is being exacerbated by demographics, with the average Australian farmer aged between 53 and 59 years old, much higher than the median age of 40 for the rest of the workforce. This means a large share of the farming workforce will retire soon, seeing the skills and experience disappear alongside it. This is supported by the ABS, which has found that supply of agricultural workers is currently not enough to replace the aging workforce and that more workers are leaving the industry than are entering it.

To combat this and prepare a business for potential growth opportunities, it’s important to consider diversifying the workforce. This could see employers hiring younger professionals who may have more of the technical or scientific skills that will be in greater demand as mentioned above. It is also important to factor in unconscious bias and homogenous hiring that could unknowingly be occurring within your hiring process and limiting the range of skills and experience available to you.

Improving first impressions

The breadth of skills, experience, education and business acumen required to undertake jobs within agricultural jobs extends not just to on farm workers but across the entire value chain and rural communities. However, jobs in regional or rural communities could lack an air of professionalism that could be a barrier to attracting key talent that is essential for taking advantage of growth opportunities.

Establishing better branding, considering employee benefits and creating job ads that make an enticing first impression can broaden both the quantity and quality of the applicant pool, attracting a more diverse range of potential workers.

If you are wanting to grow your workforce and appeal to a larger pool of key talent within the food and agribusiness industry, contact CozWine today.