The labour market

The labour market

We are developing an action plan to support the agriculture and horticulture industry in building the capacity and capability of its workforce.
Many farms are having difficulty attracting and retaining quality staff.

Success will mean improving:  

  • The perception of the industry
  • The uptake of leadership and management training, including recruitment and retention
  • Engagement with continuing professional development 
  • Awareness of new skills needs

The evidence

Our work is informed by the findings of research we commissioned in 2022, exploring the current and future needs of the agriculture and horticulture labour market in England.
We commissioned the University of Exeter to research the industry’s labour market, asking farmers and growers about their current and future workforce needs. Nearly 700 survey responses were received and analysed.  

Download the research summary report.

Key findings

  • 37% of respondents were very concerned they would not be able to find and retain the staff who have the relevant skills to their business in the coming year 
  • Labour and skill shortages are having a negative effect on the mental wellbeing of staff, not just the profitability of the business
  • Barriers to training included a lack of time, finance and relevance of training providers 
  • Current skills gaps include health and safety, environmental management and regulations knowledge, basic IT skills and biosecurity 
  • In the long term, respondents felt more emphasis would be needed on advanced digital skills, ‘soft skills’ and supervisory/people management skills 
  • Nearly 75% of employers have not carried out any formal management or leadership training themselves in the last three years 
  • Almost 60% of employers said off-the-job or on-the-job training and development was already provided to their staff
  • Respondents felt that, despite developments in automation and new technology, workforce requirements will remain the same or increase over the next five years, particularly in terms of specialist/technical staff.  
  • Barriers to future recruitment included perception of industry (hours, pay etc) competition from inside and outside the industry, lack of skills among applicants, lack of affordable local accommodation 
  • Few employers attribute themselves any responsibility for recruitment, retention or skill issues. However, training in recruitment and selection is of particular importance if the labour shortage issue is to be remedied 
  • While some farmers expressed a willingness to engage with potential staff without any prior experience in farming, 42% still demonstrated a reluctance towards this 
  • Almost a fifth of current permanent/salaried staff are from outside the UK, while only 14% of the seasonal workforce are domestic staff. This suggests immigration remains the most rapid and effective solution for many employers
Interested in finding our more or getting involved? 
Please contact us at [email protected].