Sell the sizzle, not the sausage
To promote our industry we need a plan and we need momentum
I recently had the opportunity to chat to Richard Charles, Training Manager UK and Ireland for AGCO for an episode of my weekly Inside Agri-Turf podcast (I hope you’ve had chance to catch it)
The talk, inevitably, turned to the perennial problem of finding suitable staff to take us forward over the coming years.
Technicians of course, but others to fill vital roles in the dealership. Richard, who was admirably open and frank for a senior member of a major manufacturer (not always the case) was in no doubt that as an industry we were regarded as a closed shop by outsiders.
Companies tended to rely on the ‘same old, same old’, looking to recruit in all the usual places with the result that there was often a revolving door of staff moving between dealerships.
We are niche industry. We cannot compete with the sheer scale of the automotive, aerospace, construction, rail or marine sectors for public awareness. But then we are not looking for hordes of new people, it’s not a numbers game.
We are looking for those who are willing learners, inquisitive, team players, resourceful and never duck a challenge.
All of which lead me to a newly formed organisation, Forces Farming, set up by former John Deere employee Jeremy Gibbs. His aim is to connect ex service personnel, or those planning to leave the services, with jobs in agriculture for they do embody many of the qualities we seek.
One of his ‘protoges’ is Will Foster, who left the Army last year at the age of 39 after 23 years of service. In his final role, he was a technical trainer on tanks based at Bovington Camp teaching drivers, mechanics and commanders and had served several overseas tours including Afghanistan.
He joined Jeremy and myself for a recent episode of the podcast to tell his story. He had originally decided to train for a technical role in the railway and rolling stock industry, but slowly turned his attention to agricultural engineering after some colleagues told him that it was ‘cool’.
After gaining some voluntary work experience with Ben Burgess, he landed a job as a service technician with Chandlers Farm Equipment which he says is ‘his dream job’. Although initial technical training has been limited because of Covid restrictions, he obviously enjoys the banter with younger, but more product knowledgeable work mates and it is clear he is trusted by customers - because of his services experience.
In order to get into the industry, he had to do all the research himself, using mainly LinkedIn, building up a networking of contact with businesses and people.
Interestingly, although there is an industry careers website (www.landbasedengineering.com) supported by AEA, BAGMA and IAgrE through its training and education arm LE-TEC, neither Jeremy nor Will had come across it.
To my mind, it’s not enough just having a website. It should be a buzzing, living, breathing, in-your-face communication, constantly updated with jobs, events and personal tales linked to a social media campaign. The problem is that three worthy industry organisations all want their say, and there is no one mouthpiece, figurehead or ‘driver’ for the campaign.
Even when doing his work experience, Will told the podcast “I was bedazzled by the glamour and glitz of the industry!” Must say I’ve never heard it portrayed in those sizzling terms before!
Industry campaigns have come – and gone. What we need is a plan and we need momentum.
We need to sell the sizzle, not the sausage!