The National Fruit Show is a great example of the diversity of the roles and the fabulous people that work so hard for the British Fruit industry. Slowly and surely our industry is revolutionising what it does, bringing in talented people who are driving real change. Elsewhere in produce and farming in general there has been a gradual shift in both age, skills and ability to engage with retailers, consumers and to drive business.
There are great initiatives like our education programme (now developing its secondary school offer thanks to new sponsorship), Leaf’s education scheme (the former FACE) directly engaging the STEM agenda in a land-based context, the Hadlow project 50 showcasing technology in future farming, the Fresh Careers Fair offering access to the cream of the produce and food service sectors to students who would never have considered our sector before. Salaries are rising to recognise the talent we need; its not an industry for the faint hearted as it is fraught with risks (and also adrenaline).
So much still needs to be done, and with a large proportion of our talented managers and supervisors originating in another country they will have started receiving their EU settlement scheme paperwork from the home office. Lets refer to the MAC report at this point, these are net contributors to our economy, these talented people who we didn’t have to educate and of whom the majority will return ‘home’ to retire (heaven knows we appear intent in making this country less like home for them with each passing day it seems). Let’s not forget that they pay taxes (more than can be said for others…), they don’t claim benefits and work incredibly hard building British businesses. Are we doing enough as an industry to fill this emerging skills gap? Do our colleges create the next generation of junior and middle managers? Are businesses doing what they need to be doing to attract young, home grown talent? Our other challenge is the proposals flying round about the salary aspiration for low skill and skilled worker permits. At £30,000 pa that’s going to rule out harvest labour, nurses, train and bus drivers, care workers, construction workers etc. With the skilled worker permits… well that’s all our researchers for a start. I’ll stop on Brexit now.
At this point can I draw your attention to the fact that the previous three paragraphs were not gender specific, we are looking to appoint the best people for the job, just as many companies are doing right now. The time has passed to comment on someone’s ability to do a role based on their gender, that their gender is worth commenting upon even. Time to move on everyone, let’s find the right people do the job!
And to finish, please shout about your great British Apples and Pears. With a dreadfully difficult start to the season. We all need to do our bit to encourage an increase in consumption. Fill social media with posts of the beauty of our products and the amazing landscape in which we work, spread the word on how great it tastes this year, what a healthy convenient snack they are too.