Low pay and long hours deter future growers

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01 August 2022
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Survey reveals barriers in awareness and future employee prospects

ALMOST 60% of students interviewed in a recent survey by the University of Exeter in the UK, stated that jobs in food and farming are too low paying as a barrier to working in the field, and a majority also indicated that the hours are too long.

When asked whether they have or would consider jobs in food and farming, more than half stated they would probably not or definitely not. 

The report forms part of the Devon Locally Led Inquiry commissioned by the RSA Food, Farming and Countryside Commission and is entitled New Entrants - Exploring the views of young people in Devon'.

Low awareness of what different careers in the field would look like may be posing a barrier to students showing interest. About one-fifth said they would consider jobs in that field, but 7% indicated they have no idea because they don’t know what it would involve. 

Results indicate that young people, even in a rural county like Devon, don't always understand the breadth of careers available within the agriculture sector, or take an interest in jobs within food, farming and agriculture. Nor do they have a clear picture of what it takes to get the food from the field to their fork. Indeed, the results show that there is scope for improvement by the agriculture industry to promote itself and careers within it to young people within the county.

"This suggests that there are many students in the county who are currently unlikely to consider the sector based on their current understanding of what options are available and the barriers they envision," the report states in its conclusions.

There was a general lack awareness of the true range of careers and/or the skills that modern agriculture requires relating to different education and skills pathways, and many had an outdated view of work within the sectors.

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The report goes on to state ways in which awareness and knowledge could be improved.

Increasing the prevalence of agriculture as an industry that career counsellors discuss with young people is one way to increase awareness, but would be less effective than talks from those in the industry who are already hands-on, it states.

"Students may engage more with real-life examples they hear from someone working in the field. Possibly young farmers who are closer to their age and have more recently gone through the steps it takes to enter the industry rather than just those higher up the employment ladder who the students might not identify as closely with."

Social media, videos and direct experiences with jobs have a key role to play based on the feedback the report's compilers received from the 2,000 students interviewed.

"The food, farming and agriculture industries need to work together more effectively to promote the range of career opportunities that are available to young people throughout the food chain, utilising not only social media messages but also coordinating at the school level with career counsellors to do industry impact engagement events as well as promote young people within the industry who can provide real-life examples of what their education and skills development pathways were to enter into the profession."

A full copy of the report is available here.

* Launched in November 2017, the RSA Food, Farming and Countryside Commission is a major, two-year independent inquiry, funded by Esmée Fairbairn Foundation.