BMPA report offers solutions to workforce challenges
The British Meat Processors Association (BMPA) has published a report which offers a number of solutions to the challenges facing meat processors in terms of labour shortages.
The report follows a survey conducted by the BMPA of its members which found that, while the reliance on overseas labour has come down since 2018, it is still very high with EU workers typically making up over 60% and in some cases over 70% of workforces.
It also highlights that for the last 20 years, migrants have been a vital source of skilled workers who are prepared to work in locations across the UK, making up the numbers where UK workers cannot be found.
In the report, it highlights a number of recommendations for Government to consider for the short, medium and long term. The recommendations include:
- Adding butchers onto the Shortage Occupation List. This would enable the industry to more easily recruit skilled workers from outside of the UK, to help fill the skills gap.
- All future visa requirements and procedures are simple (for both employee and employer) and are processed without delay. Visa costs must be as low as possible, to avoid as much additional cost and resource pressures to businesses as possible.
- UK Government works to ensure that all eligible EU workers have registered for settled or pre-settled status, before the deadline.
- Government should support businesses for this upcoming Christmas period in the recruitment and retention of seasonal workers. Brexit and Covid-19 are additional pressures businesses do not usually face at Christmas (the busiest time of year for most) and therefore seasonal recruitment is likely to be a bigger challenge than usual.
- Encourage economically inactive and unemployed British people to apply for positions in the meat industry.
- Increase the visibility of meat industry job vacancies.
- Facilitate access to skilled labour in the short term.
- Invest in training for the meat industry. Government could help facilitate suitable needs-based training for young people, including:
- Promoting the meat industry as a viable career choice, in schools and colleges. Help to improve the image of the meat industry.
- Increasing the employability of students leaving schools, particularly by instilling and assessing certain behaviours such as work ethic, team working and responsibility. Work with industry to ensure the skills taught maintain relevance for the working world.
- Work with industry and training providers to coordinate supply of training and demand of skilled workers. This would help alleviate the disparity between supply and demand across UK regions, and assist businesses with training programmes to find the workers they need.
- Help to ease the requirements to the apprenticeship levy fund, so it can be accessed more easily by businesses for genuine training needs.
- Address transport infrastructure needs in areas with meat plants, to enable accessible and affordable transport for those working in plants.
- Assistance with the seasonal labour market. It must be recognised that there are different skill levels required for seasonal labour (versus year-round), and the two should not be considered the same.
- Government to consider expanding the seasonal agricultural worker visa numbers and expand the scope to include food factory workers.
- A review of the implemented visa process and adjusted if necessary. Industry should be widely consulted on this review.
The report’s author and BMPA’s technical policy manager, Anna Proffitt, said: “While it’s hoped that more UK workers will now be attracted into the profession, there still remain significant challenges to fill skilled positions. Even if more British people step forward for training, there would still be a minimum two-year skills gap (the time it takes to train a new recruit) which would need to be filled by fully skilled workers.
“These skilled workers can only come from abroad and that’s why BMPA is calling on the Home Office to include Butchers on the Shortage Occupation List. We also want Government to work with the industry to deliver public outreach to attract more young people as well as those switching career into the industry and provide easier access to the Apprenticeship Levy fund to finance their training.”