QFF was pleased to have the opportunity to participate in a workforce roundtable hosted by Minister Murray Watt in Brisbane this week which saw representatives from various agricultural peak bodies come together to provide input into potential solutions to the workforce shortages currently impacting the farmers and the sector more broadly.
The forum articulated the shortage of both skilled and unskilled workers and the impact it is having on productivity across the agricultural supply chain with many commodity sectors reporting as much a 25% downward result on production.
QFF is certainly receiving similar feedback from our members with some farmers not planting crops or choosing to plant less labor-intensive crops as they fear ongoing workforce shortages will see them unable to reap the crops at harvest time.
Key concerns raised at the roundtable included the need for the VET and Tertiary sector to become more outcome-focused and industry responsive as well as more support to be given to schools to articulate a clearer pathway for school leavers to pursue a career path in agriculture.
The housing shortage was also raised as a key concern with many roundtable participants calling for a national strategy, working with the States and other key parties including Local Government and industry to address the accommodation crisis. QFF raised the difficulty many farmers are facing in navigating complex and sometimes costly planning approvals associated with progressing on farm worker accommodation as just one of the barriers facing our members.
Discussions reiterated the need for both a short-term and long-term effective immigration strategy to secure a workforce pipeline for the future. With demographer Bernard Salt confirming last week at the Australian Cotton Conference, that the workforce pinch is going to get worse over the next 12 months or more, QFF supports the urgent need for a short-term immigration strategy to help industry get through the crisis over the coming 12 to 24 months until longer-term strategies have time to come into effect.
This short-term strategy must include the fast tracking of processing the backlog of Visa applications currently waiting to be reviewed. Business, industry and many families are waiting on the large number of Visa applications to be processed so that approved persons can come to Australia.
The current workforce crisis has been building for a number of years and will take some time and many different approaches to solve. QFF appreciates Minister Watt’s early engagement on this important issue. The input given by this week’s roundtable will feed into the Jobs and Skills Summit to be held in Canberra on 1-2 September. QFF looks forward to working with all levels of government on outcomes from the Summit.