By Peter Angel, State Manager – MADEC, National Harvest Labour Information Service

Without sufficient staff growers cannot get their produce to market.

“It doesn’t matter how efficient an irrigation system is or how effective pest control, if there are not the people on the ground when needed, a farm cannot be profitable” says MADEC’s State Manager Peter Angel.

You don’t have to do it alone

The National Harvest Labour Information Service (NHLIS) is funded by the Commonwealth Government and operated by MADEC Australia to assist growers to find workers, especially for peak periods when extras are needed. The service does not cost anything to use and is very easy to navigate.

The Harvest Trail website lists vacancies and the National Call Centre puts callers directly through to growers that have listed their jobs.

Who is available?

There are several groups of people that will respond to a vacancy listing, with working holidaymakers making up a large number. The traditional backpackers from predominantly European countries are keen to do three months’ farm work in regional areas to qualify for a second year visa to continue their holiday in Australia.

Mr Angel advises that “there is another visa which allows young people from developing countries to come, including those on our international doorstep such as Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam. Recent changes mean they can now work to qualify for a second and third year the same way as traditional backpackers can. And they can now work for the same employer for the whole three years which I think will interest growers.”

The Seasonal Worker Programme that brings in Pacific Island and East Timorese workers is a highly valuable long-term option. These are highly motivated workers that want to save Australian dollars that can change the lives of their families back home. They also work hard because they want to be invited back again the next season. Training any employee takes effort, and the experience these workers gain is retained because they can come back year after year.

“Growers tell me that starting a new season is so much easier when your workforce already knows what to do and is fully productive immediately,” Mr Angel said.

“There is also the new Pacific Labour Scheme which is a variation that allows a worker to stay continuously for up to three years and is more focused on semi-skilled positions.”

And of course the Aussie workforce should always be an employer’s first preference. While seasonal farm work is not popular with Australian workers, some will relish the opportunity for a start that may lead onto more permanent work such as tractor drivers, forklift drivers, machine operators, supervisors and ultimately even farm managers.

Don’t delay, start now

The advice from MADEC is that now is the time to start planning for the essential workforce you need for your busy summer period. Some options can be accessed quickly, but others such as the SWP can take months to arrange. Talk to the staff at the Call Centre for how to list a vacancy, or ask to be put through to one of the very experienced State Managers for more detailed information. Simply call 1800 062 332 or go to www.harvesttrail.gov.au