Bespoke training for seasonal workers

Posted 03/11/15
This week I am in Romania visiting a specialist agricultural recruitment firm that offers its growers something a little different.

Having arrived in the sunny city of Bucharest yesterday, I was given the opportunity to get a sneak peak of the AG Recruitment office where I would be spending the next few days. Located in the heart of Romania’s capital, the office offers impressive simulated experiences to reflect that of a UK farm. The purpose of this is to not only teach candidates about the kind of environment that they will be working in, but more importantly to prepare them for the physical nature of the job and make the transition much easier.

Upon arrival candidates are interviewed for around two hours in small groups. Interviewers are looking for determination and motivation during this time, in which they are also tested on their skills using various tailor-made activities which test dexterity, team work, ability to learn quickly as well as determination to succeed. Unlike other recruiters, AG ensure that they have at least 6 hours contact time with each candidate before they start work. This helps to form a strong sense of trust between them, which is often lacking in seasonal worker schemes.

It is a strong ethic of the company to make sure that their candidates are fully prepared for the work they are expected to do in the UK.

Operations manager, Mihai Marin, said: “By not preparing them properly for the farm they can turn up and decide to go home after a few days which wastes our time, the growers time and the candidates time, as well as a lot of money so it’s in no ones interests to give them a false sense of the work.”

During the first interview applicants are shown how is best practice to pick fruit, and then tested on these skills on the ‘money race’. This is an area in the office that has fake strawberry plants that got its name because the quicker the picker, the more money they will get. This allows the AG Team to assess speed and technique and shows the candidates the physical work involved.

The interview will also include other specialist tests developed by AG director, Dough Amesz, designed to determine suitability to the job.

They are also given a presentation which shows the living arrangements they should expect along with the realities of working on a farm, including harsh weather and long hours. AG are adamant not to sugarcoat the experience to ensure that workers are fully prepared. However, they will not jeopardise welfare and ensure that living conditions and the happiness of the workers comes first. This is done by carrying out inspections on farm and keeping in contact with all workers through a support network.

Within 24 hours of the first interview, candidates are told whether they have reached the second phase of the interview which is when training begins. Mihai estimates that only 35-45% of people that walk through the door will end up working on farms, which highlights the quality of workers they are looking to recruit.

With the demographics of migrant farm workers changing rapidly, AG are looking for new ways to recruit candidates to work in the UK. They will frequently travel around both Romania and Bulgaria to various cities, where they are able to bring portable equipment similar to that in the office. This keeps travel costs low for applicants living away from the capital and allows the company to recruit more workers.

Tomorrow I will get an insight into the training given to applicants before they are offered a position. AG recruitment tailor make training for growers to prepare workers for the specific jobs they will be doing on farms. They are the only recruitment agency that offers such a service.


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