Plum jobs: agriculture still a growth industry

Agriculture is going to need more workers, even with future labour-saving technologies.

That means opportunities for young people as well as challenges for employers and the sector.

That conclusion comes from a new report released by the Ministry for Primary Industries, one that I was involved in producing.

The research estimated the future labour needs across the primary sector, including in horticulture, sheep and beef, and dairy important in Otago.

We found that 8% to 16% more workers will be required over the next 10 years. Even in a low-growth scenario, the sector will need to find more employees.

In a high-growth scenario, New Zealand agriculture can earn more by targeting highvalue export markets.

That growth will need twice as many new workers as the baseline estimate.

New technology and automation won’t fill the gap.

Labour-saving technology in one part of the supply chain frees up resources to increase total production.

As a result, the whole sector ends up needing more people.

We also found that jobs needing education and training will be a higher share of jobs in the sector. Highly skilled workers will be needed to support the growth of technology and to deal with increased complexity. There are two important implications of these results.

One is that the primary sector is far from a ‘‘sunset industry’’. It’s a sector that needs workers and will continue to need them. That makes it a great option for young people.

These jobs often combine physical work with problemsolving and knowledge of technology.

The research suggests that the jobs will become more complex and demanding.

We found that industry representatives know they need to create good jobs and good careers for employees.

The other implication is that the sector will need to find more workers.

The past few years have seen some labour challenges, especially for seasonal horticulture jobs.

Those challenges will only continue.

The hope is that this new research will support industry and government to target recruitment and training.

That will provide more certainty around the supply of workers that the sector needs.

The growing workforce also means that rural communities will continue to grow — more people, houses, shops, roads, etc.

Good planning will be needed to support that growth.

There’s a lot of potential in the primary sector.

Support, investment and employees will be key to making the most of it.