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Help needed for major new study on labour shortages and skills crisis in the farming and horticultural industry

Date Published: 22/03/2022

A major new study will shed light on the labour and skills shortages responsible for the staffing crisis in the farming and horticultural industry.

Experts from the University of Exeter will survey employers to gather crucial information for the TIAH (the Institute for Agriculture and Horticulture) about current skill levels, critical skills gaps and priority training needs and the reasons behind them.

The study will show the changes taking place in the agricultural industry including opportunities and constraints to growth, and how these might influence employers’ skills needs over the next 10 years.

Experts hope to be able to estimate current and anticipated future UK workforce numbers. The research will create a profile of the agricultural workforce, including demographic information, skill levels and qualifications. It will show the prevalence of skills shortage and recruitment difficulties.

Professor Matt Lobley said, from the University of Exeter, said: “Farm labour shortages have been made worse by Brexit and the coronavirus pandemic. The situation in the future is unclear because of the impact of new technology and changes in immigration policy.

“While the farming community is used to dealing with uncertainty and factors outside of their control, change in the contemporary climate is happening at such a rate that the situation regarding labour and skills is in crisis.

“This research will give the industry an essential and accurate picture of farm labour and skills requirements, both now and in the future.”

The research team will also review existing evidence, including technical reports, academic articles, industry data and other organisational surveys.

The experts hope to discover how changes in agriculture are influencing employers’ skills needs, the prevalence and drivers of skills and labour shortages, attitudes towards training, technology-related skills issues, and related barriers and current training opportunities.

Dr Caroline Nye from the University of Exeter, said: “Our research will help to produce a more complete picture of the industry labour force requirements in England. We will obtain information about different sectors of the industry and different regions, as well as what is driving change, attitudes, barriers and opportunities to training.”

The survey is available here: http://ex.ac.uk/FarmLabourSurvey. Anyone seeking further information regarding this study can contact the research team on: LabourSurvey@exeter.ac.uk.