Challenges for rural sector amid ‘competitive’ job market – O’Connor

Minister for Primary Industries Damien O’Connor.

Incentivising work settings in the rural sector for young people remains a challenge amid a competitive job market, Agricultural Minister Damien O’Connor says.

The Ashburton district, like many other regions, was contending with a labour shortage across various sectors.

But this flies in the face of rising unemployment and disengagement, particularly with younger age groups.

Labour market issues was a focal point of a recent Ashburton District Council report into the local economy which recorded a 34 per cent rise in people receiving job seeker support.

“There is a clear mismatch however between the number of jobseekers and young people potentially available to the labour market and the actual availability of workers who are employment ready with the motivation and skills to take up the vacancies we have in the district,” the report said.

O’Connor conceded that some people were unware of the benefits of the sector.

“There are great careers in the agricultural sector, some people don’t realise,” he said.

“We’re putting a huge amount to make sure that when we do see rising unemployment and we have job opportunities we can match those up.”

Ashburton College principal Ross Preece recently suggested that the agricultural sector no longer held much appeal for young people compared to other industries.

Minister O’Connor believed this issue was not limited to just the primary sector.

“People are crying out for good people and labour across the world and not just in the primary industries,” he said.

“It’s a competitive world.”

“We just have to make sure in terms of agriculture that we can provide good wages and conditions and inspiration for young people.”

The Secondary School Employer Partnerships Canterbury initiative was launched on Monday to create a pathway for youth through to the food and fibre sector

O’Connor said the initiative would help pique the interest of youth into the primary industry.

– Adam Burns