Which skills are needed in the Rural Economy?
Report Segment: Skills Analysis
Lantra, the sector skills council for the land based sector, questions the need for ever increasing higher level skills at work, suggesting that there is not necessarily a correlation between quality of product/service and higher levels of skills in the workforce (see Lantra UK Skills Assessment Report 2010/11– Page 63).
Lantra is keen to point out that qualifications are not a good measure of the quantity or quality of skills in the sector, because national qualifications are not highly rated among businesses (England Skills Assessment 2010/11 Lantra page 62). The land based sector is however, highly trained and as shown in the analysis of short course provision in Norfolk (e.g. the RDP’s LandSkills Programme), business demand for upskilling is strong. It is just its appetite for national qualifications which is weak.
As Michael Mack (2007) has shown, the qualification level of farmers in Norfolk is actually quite high.
Lantra, though does suggest that there will be jobs available in the sector in the coming years: Across the UK - 44,000 in sales; 41,000 in management; and 39,000 in skilled trades (UK Skills Assessment Summary Report 2010/11 Lantra 2010 Page 9). The extent to which the continuing recession will impact on these projections is not known but caution regarding their likely accuracy is advised.
Improve, the sector skills council for the food and drink sector report that 13% of East of England food and drink manufacturers have vacancies compared to a national average of 16%. The majority of these vacancies are short term; only around 4% of jobs are deemed “hard to fill”. 11% of employers in the region state that they have skills gaps which are most prominent in the machine operative/ production line worker area (Improve – The Food and Drink Manufacturing Industry in the East of England – Labour Market Information Profile 2009/10).
As we have seen with other sectors, there are a range of sector specific “technical” and “craft” skills gaps reported for the sector; on the craft side, butchery, bakery and fishmongery skills are all identified as lacking in the UK as a whole.
For sales and customer service staff a range of familiar skills gaps are reported. These include: customer handling; technical; problem solving; team-working; oral & written communication skills.
Whilst migrant labour is justified on the basis that local people don’t want jobs in the agricultural sector, it is interesting to note the recent ONS statistics on jobs sought and vacancies notified in Norfolk and Suffolk (October 2011). This clearly shows a net deficit (more jobs sought than vacancies notified) in all land based sectors apart from two – some fishing and agricultural occupations are needed and there is a small requirement for farm managers.