By Growcom CEO Stephen Barnard

Happy New Year!

However you plan to celebrate New Year – with a drink or two, watching fireworks or a good night’s sleep – unfortunately we’ll wake to a Groundhog Day of persistent workforce challenges.

If you’re not sure what the term Groundhog Day refers to, it’s a situation in which events that have happened before, happen again, and unfold in the seemingly same way. 

FYI, Groundhog Day is also the name of a movie, featuring a weatherman living the same day over and over again. 

In 2022, putting boots on farms will continue to be a key challenge for growers across the country.

This is also the key goal of a renewed employment initiative delivered by Growcom, through the Diverse Workforce Pathway Program.

Migrants and refugees know what working on the land means, and they bring a number of relevant experiences to farms, so it makes perfect sense to link them with long-term opportunities.

So it’s a no-brainer for Growcom to train and then place migrants and international students in agribusiness labour roles.

To that end we’ve teamed up with the Toowoomba-based charity The Mulberry Project to deliver on this.

This is a multi-pronged initiative that benefits people living in farming communities and supports our farmers who continue to deal with a severe workforce crisis.

Toowoomba is a humanitarian resettlement area and there are many migrants with rural and agricultural backgrounds there, as well as international students looking for work.

There will be 80 employment pathways made through the Diverse Workforce Pathway and that’s going to enrich the lives of skilled migrants and build diversity for the agribusiness labour workforce.

Matching 80 skilled migrants to available jobs alone won’t solve the workforce crisis but it provides agribusinesses with some leverage to get products into stores.

That’s why we will work with the local community to upskill migrants and refugees and also give international students an opportunity to apply their skills on farms too.

Opening doors like this – with the support from the Queensland Government’s Department of Employment, Small Business and Training – benefits families who are re-settling and finding their feet in a new country. This is part of the dynamism of the Diverse Workforce Pathway Program.

While this may not be the answer to the workforce woes that afflict the entire fresh produce industry, it provides a chance for a reliable, local workforce to be created that some growers can rely on.