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The prospect of high unemployment due to the Covid-19 crisis could be a ‘‘golden opportunity’’ for the rural sector to recruit talented New Zealanders to fill skills gaps, he said.
‘‘Over the next six months, things are going to be pretty tough, but if there’s a sector that has a real opportunity to shine it’s food and agriculture.
‘‘For some time in agriculture there’s been a skills shortage. Labour has been pretty tough to find so there’s some real opportunities to promote what the industry has to offer.’’
There had been a shortage of ‘‘problem-solvers’’ in the rural sector, so people with science, physics and engineering backgrounds could find a blossoming new career.
‘‘When you look at it, I think most skills are transferable. There’s opportunities for people with skills in engineering, machinery, manufacturing, marketing, process improvement and all those labouring skills are transferable.’’
But the prospect of changing careers could be daunting, he said.
‘‘I think the challenge, when your world gets turned upside-down, is to step back and apply some clear thinking.
‘‘We are creatures of habit, but it’s about stepping back and thinking ‘these are the skills which have allowed me to do X, Y and Z, but how do I apply these skills to something else?’’’
Most New Zealanders had social connections and networks which could be utilised to investigate where new opportunities might be.
‘‘It’s about making connections, following through on those connections and asking to be connected with the right people. If you can do that, you will find that most people are inherently helpful.’’
Mr Charteris said there was more that rural sector organisations, such as Federated Farmers, could be doing to connect with urban communities to promote where the opportunities might be.
Rabobank had been investing in five ‘‘client councils’’, including one in Canterbury, where the bank’s clients met to discuss challenges facing the agricultural sector and develop initiatives.
The client councils saw a need to ‘‘break down’’ the perceived rural-urban divide and had introduced an initiative to expose year 12 and 13 urban students to the primary sector.
Mr Charteris said the world was changing rapidly, so it was hard to know what skills would be in demand in the future, but he recommended data, adaptability and problem-solving.
‘‘There is so much data today, so there is a need for data analysts to cut through all that data and ask ‘what is that all telling me?’’’
Developing new technologies such as robotics provided a competitive advantage, so problem-solving skills were always in demand, Mr Charteris said.
- David Hill