Educate locals or allow more foreigners

Rural Contractors New Zealand president Steve Levet says schools are partly to blame for the shortage of skilled workers in agricultural contracting.

Mr Levet says the education system has always viewed agriculture as being a second rate option for the under-achievers at school.

He says the agricultural sector needs to target the brighter students and promote agriculture and agricultural contracting as a career opportunity.

Mr Levet says students can get qualifications in agricultural contracting which is not only a highly-specialised field requiring great expertise, but opens the door to international travel as well. . . .

Is it fair to blame schools?

It’s possible that they don’t know about the opportunities and if they don’t know then it’s up to the industry, and agriculture in general, to educate them.

A farm advisor who was concerned about the lack of knowledge of career opportunities in agriculture and associated industries provided a learning opportunity for several secondary school principals.

He flew them over the area, pointing out the many businesses below them then introduced them to some of the local agribusiness entrepreneurs.

The agenda included a session from an accountant who gave such good examples of the earning potential in agribusiness that one principal quipped he was in the wrong job.

The issue of the lack of skilled workers was discussed on The Nation. Federated farmers president Bruce Wills said if there’s not enough locals, immigration rules need to allow more foreign workers.

Mr Wills said only 86.5 per cent of the farming work force are New Zealand citizens so a 13.5 per cent gap is needed to be filled by migrants. He would like the Government to make it easier to attract more foreign labourers.

“We can’t run our industry now without significant numbers of immigrant workers so the industry is too important to be hijacked by lack of labour, if we cant get kiwis in these roles we got make it easy to attract and retain good quality immigrant labour,” said Mr Wills.

If kiwis don’t want the work there are plenty of foreigners who do – providing they can get visas.

20 Responses to Educate locals or allow more foreigners

  1. Deborah says:

    Alternatively, pay better wages so that workers find the jobs more attractive. That’s a better option than exploiting immigrant labour.


  2. TraceyS says:

    If teachers don’t know, then they should educate themselves. Risk averseness is a problem. In schools you have staff who are comfortable with employment. Children need to be exposed to those who are comfortable in self-employment if they are to embrace that path.

    Low interest rates are also important because starting up is very capital intensive.

    The forestry industry will also experience critical shortages of workers in the next ten years. Safety issues are likely to worsen as parents discourage their children away from that industry as a career option. This will in turn reduce the choice and quality of candidates available for employment. Will this help improve the safety record? Not likely, as employers will be forced to take whomever they can get to do the work.


  3. homepaddock says:

    Contracting jobs aren’t low paid and nor are most farm ones.

    From the second link in the post:

    Mr Wills said farm workers being paid minimum wage is not true.

    “The average farm worker today is earning five and a half thousand dollars more on average than our minimum wage so I think this perception of low pay needs to be questioned,” he said.

    Many farm jobs come with a house on top of wages too.


  4. Andrei says:

    Many moderns don’t like to live in the country and are also averse to physical labour.

    Moderns prefer to work nine to five in air condition offices, have a choice of restaurants at their doorsteps to dine in, nightclubs to party in at all within walking distance of the abode where they lay their weary head.

    Operating a combine harvester from dawn to dusk hundreds of kilometers from the nearest Satay take out doesn’t appeal to many.

    This springs immediately to mind


  5. JC says:

    I’m not convinced wages are a problem here. According to Rabobank surveys experienced workers (3 years plus) make between $40 and $60,000 pa.

    Nor do I think 86.5% of farm workers being Kiwis is a low takeup.. rather its indicative of our 86:14 urban/rural split.

    The fact is that a kid with just NCEA level 2-3 could do quite well on a farm compared to a low paid job in town where there are no food or accommodation perks, and schools would be well advised to devote considerable resources to promoting agriculture.



  6. Mr E says:

    We can blame teachers? Maybe? They build there perception of farming from many sources including the media.
    We can blame the media? Maybe? They like to jump on negative information and push it out.
    We can blame … The list goes on.

    I have plenty of experience meeting farmers and they say ” I am just a farmer”. Frustrates the heck out of me. Way too humble.

    Farmers need to increase the pride. Promote the industry and attract more individuals through career paths rather than pay packets.

    Most of all the top of the industry needs to be proud. And take the time to knock back people that are willing to carelessly slight the industry.

    NZers want to be proud of the farming industry and in my opinion should. We simply need to change how farmers perceive themselves and encourage them to speak up.


  7. Glen Herud says:

    I think there are two issues here. The first is farmers don’t promote themselves very well. People (teachers) don’t actually understand what goes on in farming. Farmers need to become much more visible.

    Secondly, many young people prioritise friends, social lifestyle over money. People say young people don’t want to work. I don’t think that is the problem they just want to play in between work.

    Contracting does pay well once you know how to operate the big gear independently. But long hours often over the weekend are a big turn off.

    I really think older people misunderstand the priority that social interaction plays in the young peoples lives today. I see it everyday.

    I’m not saying it is right, just how I see it.

    Huge opportunity in Ag for young people. Farmers need to make it a bit more funky. Don’t blame teachers etc etc.

    Just do it your self. Become funky, cool and visible & the problem will go away.


  8. Viv K says:

    ‘The Forestry sector will also experience critical shortages of workers in the next 10 years’ Yes Tracey, forestry workers are being killed off at an alarming rate, 6 dead already this year! ‘Safety issues are likely to worsen as parents discourage their children away from that industry’. What the hell?! Who is ultimately responsible for safety in that industry, or any other? The employers. They have to set things up to minimise risk, no cutting corners like Pike River. It’s appalling to suggest that the forestry sector will become more dangerous because sensible parents won’t want their kids to work in it.


  9. Andrei says:

    Safety issues are likely to worsen as parents discourage their children away from that industry as a career option. This will in turn reduce the choice and quality of candidates available for employment.

    What a load tosh – forestry is by its very nature an occupation that carries risks, unlike the make work jobs in the public service given to overwhelmingly female graduates. and feminized, neutered males with useless degrees in bullshit.

    It is also very hard work, something quite strange and alien to the latte sipping chattering classes who think they know everything but actually know squat,

    The reason why young men/b> will not take on these jobs is because the clowns who run this country have given them no reason to – their women are not worth wooing, winning and building a home and family life around but have been transformed into self indulgent self absorbed slags who will open their legs for anybody and when they get pregnant the Government will pick up the tab and then impoverish the poor bugger who she claims is the dad to the point it is not worth his while going to work – so he wont bother because it doesn’t make any sense too.

    Its like watching a train wreck


  10. Viv K says:

    Settle down Andrei, the self absorbed slags bit is way over the top and bloody rude. You are demonstrating prejudice and not the christian values you berate others for not having. As I remember it is God who sits in judgement, not you. I took issue with Tracey’s statement because in my opinion it is the employer’s job to set up the work to be as safe as it can be in such a dangerous industry. And, equally important, it is the employee’s responsibility to turn up unaffected by drugs or alcohol and to follow the employer’s instructions re how to operate safely. I don’t think it appropriate to imply that having fewer workers to choose from means safety standards would slip.


  11. Deborah says:

    Well said, Viv.


  12. TraceyS says:

    No Viv, the lack is due to not enough people going into the industry, not to huge numbers going in and never coming out. Yours is a shameful use of recent accidents to support a rubbish argument.

    Of course employers have responsibilities and deaths are a terrible outcome for any employer or industry. I am not ignorant of employer’s responsibilities at all, but under Section 19 of the HSE Act (1992) employees also have responsibilities. In the forestry industry there are some employees who are used to the way things have been done for decades and it is hard to get them to change habits.

    In fact, I had this discussion with an experienced industry representative recently and he was very, very concerned about accidents. When asked if we should encourage our loved ones to work in that industry (because there will be opportunities there in the future) he wasn’t positive. This is a shame, because we need intelligent, motivated, switched-on people going into forestry to make a difference to the accident record. The more limited the labour supply is, the more likely it is that employers will take on borderline workers. Because they still have to get the work done somehow. Unless you think the industry might just go away? In which case you will soon see the value of gorse-covered hillsides adding significant nitrogen into waterways.

    You are so wrong to point the finger at someone raising these issues. I’m fairly sure you next to nothing about them. We can all sit back and criticise others from the outside, but that is pretty much a waste of time in my view.


  13. TraceyS says:

    Gosh Andrei, I would love to have both you and Viv over for dinner some time. That would be very interesting!


  14. TraceyS says:

    Sorry Viv, this is my field of expertise and I’m confident in saying that you are wrong. The recruitment pool is already too limited. Not just in forestry, but in all other areas of what Andrei would call “real work”, and as Ele pointed out in her post.

    I hope the ensuing discussion has brought attention to the reality that this issue is much, much bigger than just a remuneration and foreign versus local issue. If employers are to improve accident rates then they need to be able to reject borderline-suitable workers. But this requires there to be a reasonable pool from which to select. We also need to be able to easily dismiss employees who present as safety risks through their work practices and/or personal habits. Read some of the cases coming out of the Courts. Get one step wrong and you’re pinged on procedural fairness.

    We had a serious forestry accident about ten years ago. The operator walked away with only scratches and bruises although he could easily have been killed. Why? Because we took extra steps with setting the brand-new machine up for safety. AND because the guy had a good brain in his head and he used it. I would employ him again in an instant. But we can’t because he’s now an employer himself in guess what industry? When you knock employers in any industry you also knock the good ones. The ones who know how to make a difference much, much, much more than armchair critic Viv does. And I will forever be prepared to stick up for them.


  15. Freddy says:

    The issue is simply that Ag machinery operating is a global labour market, our lads travel off season to Oz the USA and Britain but only the British come here. The Aussies and the good Ol’ boys will never come here so it ain’t a level playing field, but there are plenty of Brits willing to travel and work here seasonally, and they are great operators.
    Andrei keeps reminding us of where the worlds greatest agricultural potential is , Russia, maybe this is where we should be looking to bring in seasonal operators?
    And it’s not the teachers fault, Parents give a child it’s expectations!


  16. Viv K says:

    Ok Tracey, in your expert opinion what can be done to make the forestry industry safer and to increase the pool of workers? As an outside observer, it appears there is a serious problem. It needs to be fixed because forestry IS here to stay. It would be good to work out how to run it on biodiesel from prunings etc, growing your own fuel would be good for the bottom line wouldn’t it? I am not knocking good employers as you have suggested, but having fair labour laws compliant with international labour laws shouldn’t scare off good employers. If Andrei and I do come to dinner should I get my husband to come with all 4 chainsaws to show Andrei he’s a real man? 🙂 (1 small, 1 medium, 1 large and I can’t remember how/why he talked me into number 4)


  17. Viv K says:

    I put a smiley face in that last bit, but it didn’t show.


  18. Andrei says:

    Parents give a child it’s expectations!

    Boy’s generally follow in their fathers footsteps, if their father is absent they don’t have a model of adult behaviour to learn from and in many cases when they attain their majority they are lost – they haven’t witnessed their dad getting up at 5am to go and work in the mine or to plow the fields so they don’t realized that is what they are supposed to be doing and school has taught them that they are second class citizens anyway

    This is particularly true of working class boys or was and where the real damage that the left wing social engineering of the past two decades is most apparent


  19. Andrei says:

    I suspect Viv that if we were to dine together we’d actually get along like a house on fire and have a lot of laughs


  20. TraceyS says:

    Three bits of legislation that land-based business really must have a handle on are the Health and Safety in Employment Act, the Employment Relations Act and the Resource Management Act.

    At times there are conflicts between them and that is not a good situation in my opinion. Look at his case ( Why does employment relations law trump health and safety law? Was the employer not taking “all practicable steps” to prevent harm as required by the HSE Act? So what if the process wasn’t perfect? Most employers aren’t experts in the law. Decisive hazard prevention action was being taken and this should be expected, not penalised.

    You can be prosecuted for doing non-complying work which could lead to environmental damage even if no environmental harm is done. By contrast, if all practicable steps are not taken to prevent harm to employees, employers don’t face action (normally) unless an accident occurs. This balance of priorities seems wrong. Just because no accident occurs does not mean that all practicable steps have been taken and the requirements of the law fulfilled. It could just be due to good luck. But when it comes to the environment, the mere chance of something going wrong is enough of a reason for penalisation.

    To illustrate, a farmer can leave effluent pool where it might enter a stream (for example, Even though it does not enter the stream, they can still receive a substantial fine. Another farmer can give a young guy a job driving a tractor and not check his past work record properly and fail to train him adequately, which could result in a death. Is he prosecuted for that if nothing goes wrong? No. But an environmental incident is treated very seriously in comparison. As a mother, which is the more worrying risk – that of a discharge getting into a stream, or the risk of my son not coming home tonight?

    What I think we need is a hierarchy within the laws that always puts health and safety first. So you will be excused for not getting the process correct if your actions are taken in order to prevent harm, and you will not be penalised more for an environmental damage possibility than you will for a personal harm possibility.


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