An article was published in AgriGrowth’s member newsletter on the recent findings of a study done by RealTime Talent on trends in agriculture hiring and recruitment. The article, written by Erin Olson of RealTime Talent, notes that data suggests an industry-wide shift in hiring demand as well as supply of available workers. Below you will find the text of the article and some graphics depicting the findings:
All signs point to a need to elevate the agriculture related workforce needs and opportunities that exist in Minnesota as well as the United States. Dramatic mechanization in agriculture has increased efficiency and reduced the need for farm labor over the past century and opened the door to new types of jobs in agriculture, including more high-tech and high-wage opportunities. Agriculture companies, trade associations, and higher education in Minnesota have witnessed this shift, but in many cases theses employment opportunities have not effectively reached the general public.
According to the USDA, the nation will see an average of 57,900 food, agriculture, renewable natural resources, and environment job openings every year between 2015 and 2020—that’s about 231,600 openings over the next four years—the result of a wave of retirement that has begun to roll through the U.S. labor force. Unfortunately, we only expect to see an average of 35,400 new U.S. graduates trained in food, agriculture, and natural resources. If they all go straight into work, only 61 percent of those expected openings will be filled.[i]
This job gap is already presenting workforce challenges for many companies, which started to post job openings online in greater numbers starting in the summer of 2013. Job posting volume in this sector has been creeping up ever since, with agriculture industry job banks, like AgCareers.com, seeing posts in the Midwest rise as much as 49 percent between 2014 and 2015.[ii]
In the first six months of 2016, AgriGrowth member organizations had 47,837 open positions that required experience or knowledge of food, agriculture, farming, the environment, or natural resources, matching similar counts from 2015.[iii] About 7,000 (or 15 percent) of these jobs were in Minnesota. While AgriGrowth members consistently sought drivers, sales workers, production supervisors, and engineers over the past decade, the majority of job postings in Minnesota during the first six months of 2016 were for marketing managers, management analysts, and financial positions. The demand for these kinds of workers is growing.
This increasing need for management and financial professionals is consistent with the message AgriGrowth has heard from the companies it works with. This summer, AgriGrowth partnered with RealTime Talent in a comprehensive survey of member organizations. The survey sought to identify the greatest challenges and opportunities in agriculture hiring, recruitment, and workforce planning. When asked to indicate their top three most difficult positions to fill, the word “manager” was the most frequent. Service technicians, animal care providers, and sales associates ranked as the most challenging positions to fill, with 23 percent of all organizations anticipating hiring new employees in sales, business development, management, or information technology between April and October.
More than half of companies said the biggest problem is that there are simply not enough applicants to fill vacancies, and that those who do apply lack either the soft skills, character traits, or experience in agriculture necessary to do the work. Most companies feel neutral or satisfied with their ability to find candidates with relevant education or certifications, but candidates still tend to lack necessary experience and skills.
There is consensus on the reasons positions are difficult to fill, but the workforce challenges faced by agriculture companies are extremely diverse. The concerns expressed by companies vary by size, type, and whether or not the company has staff designated to human resources activities. The top three workforce concerns among large companies—particularly those with human resources departments—are employee acquisition, perceived drops in youth interest in agriculture jobs, and employee retention. Agribusiness and food companies of all sizes are also particularly concerned about local non-agriculture competition when it comes to finding future candidates. Farms and smaller companies without human resources professionals on staff are less focused on future recruitment and tend to focus on current workforce gaps, targeting efforts in employee retention, compensation and benefits, and training.
All of these insights allow AgriGrowth to better understand the workforce needs of its membership. “This survey was extremely useful in helping AgriGrowth better understand the various workforce challenges facing our members in recruiting and filling their employment needs” said AgriGrowth Executive Director Perry Aasness.
Judy Barka, Program Manager at AgCentric, says that the survey findings remind her of conversations she has had with employers around the state. “I have been hearing from a variety of Agriculture Industry partners about the importance of soft skills. This report confirms everything that I have heard in the field,” Barka said. She asks agriculture companies “if lack of youth interest in jobs in agriculture was identified as a top workforce concern, what are you doing about it and how can we work together on this issue?” AgCentric and the Southern Minnesota Center of Agriculture have used the findings from AgriGrowth’s survey to guide discussions around what the agriculture industry wants from graduates, to help Future Farmers of America (FFA) encourage high school students to explore jobs in agriculture, and to develop new partnerships with the Department of Agriculture.
The Centers of Excellence and other academic partners were pleased to learn that about 80 percent of AgriGrowth members participating in internship or dual training programs report that candidates that come to them through these programs are “consistently better” than those who do not. It appears that internships, on-the-job experience while undergoing training, and direct referrals from schools lead to the greatest employer satisfaction with candidates—second only to internal employee promotions.
With these findings, the future work of RealTime Talent will focus on developing career pathways in agriculture that match changing industry needs, reviewing curriculum to incorporate important experiential and soft-skill elements, and improving the connections between employers of all sizes and skilled, experienced candidates. As a result of this survey, AgriGrowth has a stronger understanding of the talent needs of its membership and a renewed energy to drive the public message of the agriculture industry’s important place in our growing economy.
“I appreciate the time many AgriGrowth members took to fill out the Real Time Talent Survey”, said Aasness. “Enhancing our awareness of the workforce recruitment and hiring challenges facing our members will enable AgriGrowth to better represent the needs of our sector as we continue to work with the Real Time Talent board and staff. AgriGrowth looks forward to continuing to work with Real Time Talent and its other collaborators in support of private/public efforts to better align workforce development efforts that will benefit and support the needs of Minnesota’s agriculture and food sector.”
[i] The full article by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) can be accessed here: https://www.purdue.edu/usda/employment/
[ii] From the March 2016 edition of Agri Marketing: AgCareers.com report on agriculture candidates and job trends.
[iii] Counts of online job postings are from the real-time data source TalentNeuron Recruit, which extracts data on skills, certifications, salary, and other requirements from jobs posted online. For further information on this data, contact email@example.com or visit www.wantedanalytics.com.
Download the original article here or view the full newsletter online on AgriGrowth’s website: http://agrigrowth.org/wp-content/uploads/AG-Newsletter-2016-October.pdf