Wyeplants highlights labour and skills shortages concern

Climber grower Wyeplants says recruiting skilled growers as well as unskilled staff is proving difficult.

Wyeplants' commercial director Chris James
Wyeplants' commercial director Chris James

Spalding-based Wyeplants' commercial director Chris James said: "Our site has expanded quicker than we can recruit personnel for it."

He added: "The biggest challenge in horticulture at the moment is finding enthusiastic people to come into the industry. Recruitment is a harder job than getting orders through the door. We could do more if we had more of the right people. We have the capacity to expand."

James said apprentice schemes did not attract enough good applicants and Eastern European staff were saying they can earn more in Germany because of the strong euro. 

He added that one role had taken nine months to fill and that suitable college graduates were perhaps a quarter of what they were 20 years ago, with many graduates unfocussed on what they want as careers.

James said Wyeplants has diversified and now sold fruit bushes after taking over nearby Woods Nurseries. Wyeplants' customers are 70% supermarkets/DIYs and 30% garden centres. James said specification is the same high level for all customers.

Meanwhile, returning EFRA committee chair Neil Parish has indicated he will continue to fight for EU workers to come into the UK to try and prevent a looming horticulture labour crisis, with a further enquiry possible in late 2017 or early 2018.

A new record low for unemployment (at 4.3% from the ONS figures) has also made recruitment more difficult.

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