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AgriGrowth Highlights RealTime Talent Research in Agriculture’s Labor Force Needs

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] graphicsfornewsletterarticle1

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.

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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.

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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.

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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 erin@realtimetalentmn.org 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

Survey Results: What Matters Most to Job Seekers

We asked our Minnesota community what they value most in a job, and overall the responses are what you might expect: compensation and maintaining a positive work/life balance are critical. However, we noticed some interesting differences between job seekers of different age groups that suggest compensation may not be the first thing that younger members of the workforce are seeking; many seem to value the flexibility to work remotely and working for a cause they can believe in more than money.

 

rtt-job-seekers-survey-pieFirst, it is important to note that we did not receive nearly enough responses to make broad assumptions about all Minnesotans.  Out of the 50 responses we received, 35 (70%) were from people between the ages of 25 and 44, 7 (14%) were between 16 and 24, and 7 (14%) were between 45 and 64. One person responded who was older than 64.  While we can’t draw any statistical conclusions from these results, they are still an interesting snapshot to consider and our results do
echo other studies on the topic. Please take our results as a fun, casual look at what job seekers in the RealTime Talent community value most in their place of work.

 

It would be wrong to assume that compensation is the first thing that all job seekers pay attention to when considering a new job. In fact, our survey suggests that maintaining a healthy balance between work and life activities and seeking a company with a positive mission may be more important to some young job seekers. Compensation ranked third overall for young people, with not even a single respondent in the 16-24 age group indicating compensation as their first consideration in a job.  Working remotely is also a unique value of young job seekers.  Every participant in our survey ranked workplace flexibility somewhere between #1 to #5 in importance. These responses may be tied to how people in this age group define a positive work/life balance. The least important consideration for survey participants in the 16-24 year old group was the leadership of the company they consider.

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While compensation appears to become more important to older job seekers, 25-44 year olds still report that maintaining a positive work/life balance is the most important consideration. Job seekers in this age group were more likely to indicate that opportunities for advancement in a job were a swaying factor in a job offer. Company leadership was slightly more important to 25-44 year olds than for younger job seekers, but having flexibility to work remotely was less important on average among this older group. Health benefits ranked as the least important factor.

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There was a high level of consensus among the few responses received from job seekers between the ages of 45 and 64. Unanimously, these participants indicated compensation as the #1 or #2 most important factor in considering a job offer, with maintaining work/life balance coming in second place on average.  Location was also important to all survey participants in this age group, with every participant ranking place of work in their top three. Job seekers between 45 and 64 years of age also report the importance of health benefits when considering a job, pointing to the increased need for medical services with age. Opportunities for advancement rank last in this age group with every respondent ranking it in the lower half of the options given. These limited findings may suggest that many workers over 45 are finished with trying to climb the achievement ladder and are instead looking to receive the benefits of their hard work.

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Based on these results and the few studies cited above, it is impossible to determine whether these differences in job seekers focus are a result of changing values and roles as workers age, or signs of broader generational differences. There have been many hypotheses lately on the differences between Millennials, Gen X-ers, and Baby Boomers in the workplace, with hundreds of firms fighting for their place in a $150 billion global HR consulting space.  However, other studies suggest that the generations may not be so different after all. IBM’s Institute for Business Value released a report in 2014 based on 1,784 employees across the globe that found workers across all generations share similar workplace values. Nationally, CNBC found similar results in 2015. Multiple studies have found that across generation, race, and gender, employees tend to want the same things out of their work. Instead, it seems to be the importance of each factor and the way that these factors are defined that shifts with age and life stage.

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RealTime Talent is bringing WorkFountain to Minnesota

Today, RealTime Talent announced its selection of WorkFountain as the platform for a new kind of online labor exchange in Minnesota. Designed by Michigan-based company Digerati, WorkFountain “is a unique scalable platform that engages businesses of all sizes and creates greater efficiency in the labor market. The platform builds pathways for meaningful employment, ultimately creating jobs and strengthening the economy,” says CEO Brian Balasia.

WorkFountain is specifically built with the goal of reducing hiring bias and economic inequalities through blind-correlated matching of candidates to job opportunities. RealTime Talent evaluated 11 online labor exchange platforms, but what sets WorkFountain is the quality of the matches. Organizations that have implemented the technology share that they are seeing faster matches to higher quality candidates. By requiring both job-seekers and employers to complete job-specific surveys, the site goes far beyond resumes or keyword searches to understand subtle differences between candidates, including their preferred work environment, daily tasks, and leadership style.

Small and mid-sized businesses stand to gain from this new approach to hiring. Blind matching candidates based on compatibility means that brand strength doesn’t play as significant of a role in the job-seeker’s search. “As a board member of RealTime Talent, I am really excited to be bringing this innovation to Minnesota,” shared Scott Peterson, representative of the Itasca Project and chair of the RealTime Talent board. “WorkFountain has the potential to bring tremendous efficiencies to match job seekers with employers, as well as harness the power of our diverse workforce. “

The project received funding from the Minnesota Legislature in July 2016 through the leadership of Senator Terri E. Bonoff, chair of the Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee. The Legislature dedicated funding to RealTime Talent to bring a 21st century web-based job and intern-seeking software tool that blind matches the needs of Minnesota’s employers with high school seniors and college students.

“While working on the MN PIPELINE Project, we heard loud and clear from employers that they are struggling to identify and connect with their future workforce” stated Senator Bonoff. “I always knew there had to be a way to harness technology to bring about more meaningful connections between employers and our youth, so we set out to find a solution for them beyond just creating an education and training program and I’m pleased to say today that we found it. WorkFountain is currently doing this connection work with great success in Michigan and Ohio, and I am thrilled that they are coming to Minnesota to unlock so much potential for our employers and students. Thank you to Jess Niebuhr of RealTime Talent and her board for being the engine of workforce solution innovation for our State and making this happen.”

RealTime Talent is working with the support of the Office of Higher Education to implement this pilot. We are seeking regional, education, and industry partners to build, use, and launch this new platform for the benefit of Minnesota employers and job-seekers.

For more information about this pilot project, access to the full report evaluating similar platforms, or inquiries on becoming a partner in this pilot project, please contact Jess Niebuhr at jess@realtimetalentmn.org. More information is available at http://www.realtimetalent.org/ and http://digerati.co/workfountain/.

Read the full press release here:
2016 08 24 RTT WorkFountain Press Release – FINAL

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RealTime Talent Closes FY 2016 with an Announcement of Funding for an Online Labor Exchange

Happy anniversary to RealTime Talent! One year ago, we embarked on a journey to bring partners across the state of Minnesota to build the world’s best workforce right here at home.  We started by building our team and providing hundreds of practitioners across the state with access to a robust real-time labor market tool called TalentNeuron Recruit (formerly Wanted Analytics).  We trained over 900 people in this tool and presented to over 1,500 on applications of new data sources in labor market research, planning, and development.

 

RealTime Talent is excited to announce that we are no longer a “one tool wonder.”  While we continue to work to expand the use and accessibility of real-time data by providing licenses, technical assistance and research using TalentNeuron Recruit, we feel very fortunate to be receiving legislative funds to pilot a new online labor exchange.  The goal of this pilot is to explore new technologies that bring efficiency into the job seeking and hiring processes while also impacting disparities.  Strategies include removing common sources of bias in the hiring process, increasing candidate access to information about the skills and certifications desired by employers, and providing employers with a tool that truly matches the most qualified candidates with their job openings. Look for a summary of our evaluation of current tools and technology coming in mid to late August.

 

RealTime Talent is looking for partners in this innovative work to better match candidates with the best opportunities. Our goal is to pilot regionally and / or with industry specific context, as well as with colleges and universities.  Contact Jess Niebuhr to learn more.

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