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Reskilling: Filling in the skill gaps on your farm team

“Reskilling” employees – giving your current team new skills for new jobs - helps fill needed roles in the rapidly changing farm labor market.

Change is inevitable. Nothing is constant except change.

I believe this is one of the reasons we’ve heard so much (and some would say TOO much) about soft skills over the past few years. Soft skills, or employability skills, are transferable skills valuable no matter your occupation or company. These are competencies in communication, critical-thinking, teamwork, and perhaps most important in this conversation, adaptability. Technology’s impact on our lives, jobs and places of work is ever-evolving and changing.

Unemployment rates in the United States have hit the lowest levels in the past decade, with an average monthly unemployment rate of 3.7% last year. Agricultural companies report they are most concerned about competing for talent and recruiting difficulties in 2020. Besides the low number of available workers, employers report that their top reason for recruiting difficulty is applicants lack the required skills.

So, what’s next if you can’t find employees with the right technical skills and knowledge? Employers are looking for creative ways to recruit and keep employees due to the skill and talent gap.

Why this is important

The World Economic Forum recognized this critical nature of reskilling and upskilling employees to fill needed roles in the rapidly changing labor market in their “Towards a Reskilling Revolution” insight report. But going from a global perspective to a smaller scale, as an employer, where do you start?

Hiring:  Hire for “attitude” rather than hard skills. Many technical, product, company-specific skills are taught on the job. Employees, AND employers, should be committed to lifelong learning. Continued education is an expectation, not a perk.

Take a different approach to training. Once you have the right people, with the right employability or transferable skills, its much more efficient to train, develop, upskill or reskill if necessary. Upskilling is obviously increasing an employee’s knowledge base. On the job training, apprenticeships, company-funded certifications, or collegiate courses are traditional upskilling techniques. But these methods can also be used to reskill employees.

For example, let’s say you have a farm laborer that’s shown an aptitude for technology and an interest in precision farming. We’ve seen precision agriculture’s impact on farming and expect it to only increase. As an employer, you foresee the future need and acknowledge this employee’s value. Your employee development plan may include tuition for post-secondary education and training, obtaining a CCA (Certified Crop Advisor), or a Precision Agriculture (PASp) Specialty Certification.

You don’t need a crystal ball, just a proactive approach to the future of your business and employees. What will your operation need in the future? Who on your team can help you get there? Those adaptable, eager-to-learn employees may need reskilling, but will surely help your organization get there. Visit www.AgCareers.com for more information.

The opinions of the author are not necessarily those of Farm Futures or Farm Progress. 
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