New BMPA report offers solutions to workforce challenges
The problem of labour shortages in the meat industry is perennial. Meat processing, by its very nature, is labour-intensive and difficult to automate because of the flexibility, dexterity and judgement of a skilled butcher that’s needed on parts of the production line.
BMPA has just published a report which lays out the labour challenges that the industry faces, the recruitment efforts that have already been undertaken and how firms plan to tackle this in the future. The report has a list of recommendations for Government to consider for the short, medium and long term.
For the last 20 years, migrants have been a vital source of skilled workers who are prepared to work in locations across the UK. They have made up the numbers where UK workers cannot be found. And, contrary to popular belief, they work for the same wages as UK workers.
This year, BMPA conducted a survey of its members to assess the makeup of workers in their plants. It showed that, while the reliance on overseas labour has come down since 2018, it is still very high with EU workers typically making up over 60% and in some cases over 70% of workforces.
Until the coronavirus crisis, it has been incredibly difficult to recruit British workers into the meat industry due to a combination of reluctance to take on this type of role and very low unemployment in the areas where plants are located.
The report’s author and BMPA’s Technical Policy Manager, Anna Proffitt, said: “While it’s hoped that more UK workers will now be attracted into the profession, there still remain significant challenges to fill skilled positions. Even if more British people step forward for training, there would still be a two year skills gap (the time it takes to train a new recruit) which would need to be filled by fully skilled workers.
“These skilled workers can only come from abroad and that’s why BMPA is calling on the Home Office to include Butchers on the Shortage Occupation List. We also want Government to work with the industry to deliver public outreach to attract more young people as well as those switching career into the industry and provide easier access to the Apprenticeship Levy fund to finance their training”.
BMPA has submitted this report as evidence to the Migration Advisory Committee consultation into skills shortages along with other submissions from across the meat industry arguing for a more tailored Shortage Occupation List.