A large proportion of young people in Britain are interested in working in the food and farming industry, but job security and work/life balance are key requirements to achieve a happy career.

These are the headline findings of an industry-backed Farmers Guardian survey of 16-35 year olds across the UK, which sheds light on what young people really want from their careers and what could attract new talent into the agricultural sector.

Of almost 1,800 respondents, 59% said they were interested in a career in the agro-industries. However, the survey highlighted a lack of understanding around the opportunities the sector can offer, with only 5% of respondents recognising there were engineering- or science-related careers available within the agricultural industry and only 7% making the connection between agriculture and environmental careers.

Farmers Guardian has joined forces with 19 key industry stakeholders from across the farming sector to launch a new campaign, #ThisIsAgriculture, to promote careers in agriculture.

Building on the learning from the #ThisIsAgriculture survey, this initiative will work to educate those who have previously not considered the sector about the wealth of opportunities available within the sector, as well as dispelling common myths synonymous with careers in agriculture.

The campaign is collaborating with industry bodies and our industry partners to identify ways of supporting existing initiatives to help shape the political agenda, drive educational reform and provide learning resources to raise awareness of an exciting and dynamic industry.

Caroline Drummond, chief executive of Linking Environment and Farming (LEAF), said: “There is a stigma with agriculture which does not reflect what the food, farming and rural industries deliver.

“The breadth of exciting skills agriculture offers is enormous, but the rhetoric stems around ‘everyone wants to be a farmer’, which confuses things. Farming is one slice of the cake of what agriculture offers in the career spectrum.”

The survey clearly highlights if the industry is to attract the brightest minds to work in the sector there is a large public relations exercise to be done.

Attracting the best

Simultaneously, the research showed the need for the industry to understand the changing requirements of today’s workforce, as respondents expressed the importance of flexible working hours and skills development.

Asked about the criteria on which they based their job selection, 98%  said they rated job security and a fun or pleasant working environment essential, very or quite important. Achieving a good work/life balance came out at 94%.

All three criteria ranked well ahead of ‘high income’, which surprisingly came seventh on the list, behind opportunity, helping others and location.

Drilling down further into salary expectations, just more than half (54%) said they expected to earn £20,000-£25,000 or less by the age of 26. They also indicated they wanted to see jobs in agriculture offer career development. The opportunity for career progression was cited as either an essential requirement or very important by 70% of respondents to the survey.