'Action plan' announced to address primary sector worker shortages

A major new initiative has been launched to address the shortage of labour in the primary sector.

Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor announced the Food & Fibre Skills Action Plan 2019-2022.

The plan has been developed by the Primary Industries Skills Leaders Working Group with input from across the industry, government and education sectors

O'Connor said the Government and the primary sector were joining forces and taking action to fix the skills gap facing farmers and growers

"It's estimated the primary sector will need another 50,000 workers by 2025 and over 92,000 more workers with qualifications," he said.

Damien O'Connor said the plan was vital to tackle the long-term challenge of skills shortages.
Damien O'Connor said the plan was vital to tackle the long-term challenge of skills shortages. Photo credit: Newshub

He said while the sector is on the rise, it was still struggling to attract, train and retain the diverse range of people it needed to continue growing.

"This type of collaboration between industry and government is vital to tackle the long-term challenge of skills shortages.

"The primary sector is the engine room of our economy and the heart of our rural communities. We want to see it grow and thrive and - for that - we need a workforce," said O'Connor

Working group member Jeremy Baker, of Beef+Lamb NZ, said the plan identified four key opportunities to build a strong food and fibre workforce - knowledge, attraction, education and employment.

"The sectors are facing significant workforce challenges. The world of work is changing and we need a responsive and innovative workforce," he said. 

"This plan draws together and builds on many excellent initiatives already underway across individual sectors and government into a cohesive plan we can take forward together.''

The Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) also launched their online resource, the Food & Fibre Careers Hub alongside the Action Plan.

It aims to raise awareness of the diversity of the food and fibre sectors and the breadth of career opportunities available while dispelling some of the myths associated with them.

An industry-led Establishment Group has been set up to maintain momentum and to start delivering the actions.

The group included forestry and seafood representation and would also engage with the wider food and fibre sector, government and Māori stakeholders.