A rural contractor says hiring young people to fill labour gaps has paid off and he is urging others to do the same.
Rural contractors have been struggling with a labour shortage since the borders closed as skilled machinery operators, which normally travel from overseas, have been unable to get into the country.
North Canterbury Chapman Agriculture owner Allan Chapman said the labour shortage had forced him to look closer to home, and he had hired a team of nine young New Zealanders ranging from 14 to early 20s for the current season.
“It’s been a bit of a struggle but it’s been rewarding, it’s probably cost the company a bit of money as the guys have made a few mistakes but at the end of the day we’ve got through,” Chapman said.
“I think the guys are starting to realise what’s expected in the industry and what our clients expect.
“It’s quite a high-pressure industry with the weather playing a large part, demand on people and driving expensive machinery but they’re definitely getting there, that’s for sure.”
There had been stressful moments because the young crew still could not do some of the higher-skilled jobs, like precision planting, he said.
But he reckoned other contractors should give younger locals a go.
“I think we have to because you’ve got to build the industry – you can’t keep employing guys that are 35 and 40 years old, you know, you’ve got to keep the young ones coming through.
“And there’s some great young people who are really keen, there are some people who show up for a few days and realise the hours, the pressure and stress is not for them which is fair enough but hiring young guys has worked out for me.”