For as long as I can remember the dairy industry has struggled to attract and retain people. There are varying reasons for this and these have all culminated in the position the dairy industry currently finds itself in. I am hugely passionate about the dairy industry and have experienced firsthand these staffing issues. This is what has led me to investigate this issue.
The chosen focus for this report is to understand why the dairy industry struggles to attract and retain young New Zealanders. Looking at this from an urban point of view, a short online survey was conducted in four different high schools, to gain insight into what their perception is of dairy farming, how they feel about dairy farming, and would they consider a job in dairy farming.
One of the major themes to come through from the survey was that students had little to no knowledge of what was involved in a dairy farming career. While this was disappointing, it was identified as an area of opportunity. With the correct strategy, real in roads can be made in this area. A surprising result from the survey, was that 22% of respondents would consider a job in dairy farming. This was a surprise given the survey was taken in urban high schools.
A change in attitude towards rosters and hours of work was identified as being an important part of making dairy farming attractive. Moving towards a five days on two days off roster will help to reduce the hours worked each week and make the dairy industry much more appealing.
Changing how employment packages are structured was also identified as being a great way to make the dairy industry very attractive. Valuing all additional benefits, such as accommodation, at market rates will make employment packages far more attractive and competitive.
Attracting and retaining young New Zealanders to the dairy industry will require changing traditional attitudes behind the farm gate towards employment and embracing a new way of thinking when it comes to managing people working on dairy farms. Without change, the industry will be doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past.