Farmer in soybean fields

Employing the right staff is one of the biggest problems currently facing farmers. Many people would simply not consider a career in the farming industry, while most farm workers are born into rather than enter the industry. So how can employers address the skills gap in agriculture to safeguard a future farming generation?

There is no denying that staff recruitment and retention have been an increasing challenge for the agricultural sector in recent years. The European agricultural workforce is expected to decline by 28% between 2017 and 20301.

With traditional farmwork often perceived as hard, dirty manual labour - usually involving unsociable hours and low income - a career in the industry has undeniably been written off as low skilled, low paid work.

But the transformation of the agriculture sector through progress and innovation calls for a tech-savvy, highly skilled workforce.

Long gone are the days of horse-drawn ploughs and handwritten paper maps crumpled up in a tractor cab. Instead, agriculture has access to robotic machinery, GPS guidance systems and wireless data transfer. The farmers of today need to be just as confident with science and spreadsheets, as they are with soil sampling and slurry spreading.

Driving a tractor no longer means just sitting behind the wheel. Now, agricultural workers need to know the ins and outs of a complex operating system. This means a career in the sector now demands technical knowledge and expertise, as well as practical farming knowledge and sound business management.

Lack of Expertise

According to recent research by Shell, almost half (45%) of farming businesses globally admit they are facing a lack of expertise and training. A further 31% said they think there is insufficient advice on how to best maintain equipment for current staff, while 74% think inadequate expertise of staff plays a role in breakdowns.

While part of the solution is identifying the issue as a lack of knowledge, farm businesses also revealed that they are unsure where to turn to for help. Over half (54%) of farmers said they feel they are currently facing a lack of external support, while 57% agree their business would benefit from more equipment maintenance support from external suppliers. A further six in 10 (62%) favour additional training on effective equipment lubrication for their maintenance staff2.

Though there is a lack of training and expertise right now, a key industry opportunity is Generation Z - young people with a thirst for knowledge and a desire to continue learning, long after formal education ends.

To secure the farmers of the future and promote a life-long career in the sector, employers in agriculture need to adapt to these needs. Namely through new and exciting ways to both engage with potential employees and offer them the most effective training to work in this now highly technical sector.

In theory, this is simple. But how do we practically achieve this?

Knowledge Gap

One of the areas where farmers say knowledge needs to be improved is understanding the role lubrication plays in the performance and life span of machinery. 

Since effective lubrication plays a pivotal role in avoiding breakdown and increasing the life span of agricultural machinery, it’s important that staff have the knowledge they need to get it right. Optimum lubrication and maintenance practices are proven to give farmers a competitive advantage, reduce downtime and lower costs.

Shell Solution

Shell Lubricant Solutions is leading the way in knowledge exchange, by offering the latest expertise and training services. These resources are tailor-made to address the needs of both farm owners and workers to promote the most efficient agricultural practices.

Shell LubeCoach offers unique training to help staff ensure even the most advanced equipment is properly lubricated and maintained. The course content is modular, which means farm owners can choose exactly what they want to cover, making the training more valuable and enjoyable for their employees.

Farmers can also benefit from other tools such as Shell LubeChat - a new online chat facility that allows them to get instant answers to their questions regarding oils and lubricants. As well as Shell LubeAdvisor, where farmers can seek advice from experts about which oil to use to improve efficiency and reduce operating costs.

With this new age of agricultural innovation and food production, farmers will need new skills to make their businesses fit for the future. The success of agricultural operations depends on getting the most out of machinery. Investing in skills around maintenance and lubrication is key to optimising farming productivity and efficiency, now and in the future.

1 https://ec.europa.eu/info/news/eu-agricultural-outlook-european-agricultural-labour-and-total-income-expected-to-decrease-by-2030_en

2 All data from Agriculture: Global Report Powering Peak Performance, Edelman Intelligence, May 2018

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