Farm workers in short supply
Southland farmers are struggling to find young New Zealanders with the right attitude to work on the land, the Southland Federated Farmers boss says.
President Russell MacPherson said attracting young Kiwis into farming was becoming increasingly hard, despite a relatively high unemployment rate.
The situation was widespread, but Southland towns were resonating with foreign accents instead of young Kiwi men starting their farming careers.
"I think it is wasteful to have unemployed people . . . being supported by the taxpayer when they could be working on the farms."
There were 25 dairy farm jobs in Southland advertised on the Fonterra Fencepost job website last week.
However, that was no surprise to Southland farmer Rob Ankerson, who said it took him six months to find a suitable Kiwi employee.
Mr MacPherson said not everyone had the right attitude to be productive on farms. The real problem was finding skilled Kiwi workers with aspirations.
If aspiring farmers worked hard, they could end up with a farm of their own, he said.
"We struggle to get Kiwis on our farms with the right attitude and the right know-how. It really comes down to attitude."
It was not just farm-based jobs - convincing people to follow career paths in the agricultural industry was just as hard, he said.
"It's not only getting people on our farms, it's getting people into agricultural-based jobs."
Primary industries had a stigma that they were a "dumping ground" for unskilled labourers, but that was not the case, he said.
Jobs on farms were reasonably well paid, with the average farm worker earning $46,246 a year. "For a long time there was a stigma that it was long hours and low pay."
Mr MacPherson said the industry was trying hard to get young people interested in the "Kiwi dream again".
"Science will solve our problems, a bachelor of arts won't."
Agribusiness Professor Jacqueline Rowarth, of Waikato University, echoed that sentiment.
She said there were fewer agricultural graduates than arts graduates, meaning the agriculture industry was left struggling to find skilled New Zealanders to fill positions across the spectrum. In 2011, there were 68 agricultural science graduates and 92 in farm management from three- or four-year degrees, but more than 2700 in creative and performing arts, she said.
Prof Rowarth believed the problem could be fixed through secondary schools. More focus needed to be put into agriculture at secondary school level and farming should be incorporated into subjects, such as grass growth in chemistry and trade agreements in economics.
"Young people don't know what it has to offer. Agriculture is hard work, you do need to know things and you work hard, and there are great rewards, the younger generation don't see it."
- © Fairfax NZ News
Check out what's on in your community or post an upcoming event.
Subscribe to a digital replica of The Southland Times.
Southland Times subscriber news and information.
Click here for information about advertising with The Southland Times.