The Kent & Medway Fresh Food / Horticulture Employment Task Force, a sectorial subgroup of the Kent & Medway Employment Task Force, organised by Kent County Council and Medway Council, scooped the award for HR Initiative of the Year at the Fresh Produce Consortium Fresh Awards 2022 which took place at The Grosvenor House Hotel, London on Friday 16 September.

The group came together to pro-actively effect change by being solution led in its approach to the challenges of recruiting seasonal labour and permanent labour in the horticulture sector in Kent and Medway.  The group was established in Sept 2020 and meets once a fortnight to discuss agreed topics and is action-led.

Led by horticulture industry expert Carol Ford, the work of the group is to combine the knowledge and experience of sectorial fresh produce and fresh food business leaders, their human resources teams with those from local government, academic institutions, the Department for Work and Pensions, and it is supported by local MPs.

The group’s initiatives have included: focus groups and an ideas and knowledge ‘hack’ for 18-30 years from Kent & Medway colleges, universities as well as engaging with DWP to understand the recruitment barriers, shared ideas about the future of the sector and to educate about the industry’s career opportunities.

The Judges’ said: “A true collaboration of multi-sector businesses uniting to tackle the recruitment of young people – one of the industry’s biggest challenges”.

Carol Ford comments: “On behalf of the whole group we are delighted to have won this award, as it recognises how important it is to bring people from across the industry together to work collaboratively, to find a new approach to the recruitment issues the sector faces. It is critical that we engage with and encourage young people to consider a career in horticulture and we also target people who might be looking for a new career opportunity. This is really just the beginning of our work as a group and we welcome the opportunity to work with other likeminded businesses and organisations who are interested in getting involved.”