After 20 years in existence, what are you most proud to have achieved with MorePeople?
I’m very proud of the fact that we’ve made it to 20 years, and more importantly, that we’ve stuck to our original vision, which was to be different to other recruiters. We are a specialist business run by industry experts who fully understand the sectors and clients. We’ve built a great team around this vision and have ambitious growth plans for the very near future.
What have been the biggest challenges you’ve faced?
Covid-19 has given us the biggest challenges we’ve ever faced, and not just because of the impact it has had on our business. As well as the fresh produce sector, we also recruit for businesses in the foodservice and garden industries, who effectively had to temporarily shut down their businesses back in March. It was heart-breaking to witness the impact it had on some of these people who we have known for years. For some, the ongoing challenges have been relentless.
On the other hand, many of our clients in the fresh produce, food and agriculture sectors have flourished, and I’m pleased to say our business has come out the other side really well. The year looks set to end on a high.
What are the main changes you’ve witnessed in the fresh produce job market since MorePeople began?
I would say the main difference is that the industry is so much bigger now than it was, and businesses are a lot more corporate. This has helped with recognition and awareness that it’s a great sector to work in, and one that offers really exciting and fulfilling careers.
Are there more varied opportunities in the fresh produce sector now than 20 years ago?
Yes, absolutely there are. As automation has taken over the more mundane jobs, we’re recruiting for roles now that are still relatively new – for example, consumer insight managers, category analysts, more engineers and technical roles, R&D, and scientific and sustainability roles, to name a few. There’s definitely more variety than ever. The volumes being produced are just so much bigger now, and the supply chain is incredibly fast-moving, so there’s a need for more people with quite specific skill sets.
Is there a shortage of talent coming through in any particular areas of the fresh produce trade?
There’s a general candidate shortage really. Looking back over the past 20 years, there nearly always has been. This has been a challenge of ours to be honest. There’s still a lot more work that needs to be done to showcase careers in the sector. It’s always been a passion of mine to help promote the industry to the next generation of talent and, as a business, we have always committed a lot of time to speaking at university events and supporting student initiatives like the IFST LaunchPad.
In terms of specific areas of concern, if we’re going to grow more in the UK in future, where will the new growers come from? There are fewer qualified horticulture people coming through, so more needs to be done to promote opportunities in food horticulture.
What would be your advice to people looking to get a job in the fresh produce sector? What are the key skills you need?
My advice is simply to go for it and be open-minded. It’s exciting, varied and non-stop. We’re now working across more sectors than ever before, so I can say that salaries in fresh produce are good and certainly in line with other areas in the food industry. Career progression can happen really quickly too.
The fresh produce sector is seasonal and fast-moving, so the key skills you need include being flexible, adaptable, able to handle pressure, resilient (as things will go wrong), but also having energy and a passion for what you do.
What more could be done by the fresh produce industry to attract the best talent to the sector?
Everyone in the sector could be doing more in their local area to promote both themselves and the industry as a whole. Some people are very good at this, but unfortunately there’s no one voice to do it on behalf of the sector.
While there are some huge fresh produce businesses out there, they are not all household brands, so there’s not the same level of marketing as other food businesses. The Veg Power campaign has made an impact because there’s nothing else like it, but more needs to be done to arouse curiosity, particularly in young people, around where products actually come from.
How has your approach to recruitment changed over the years?
As I said earlier, we pride ourselves on not being your ‘typical’ recruiter as we’re industry-focused and really care about the sectors we recruit for. That being said, 10 years ago we strengthened the team with our now managing director, Andrew Fitzmaurice, who brought with him recruitment expertise gained in a city-based, non-food agency. Thanks to his influence, we now make use of more sophisticated recruitment technologies and systems to help us do our jobs even better.
How has the fresh produce job market been affected by the coronavirus pandemic and Brexit?
How long have you got?! That’s a really difficult question to answer and nobody knows the full impact yet. Early on in the pandemic, nobody could really predict what was going to happen and there was obviously a seasonal worker shortage.
In terms of executive recruitment, however, it hasn’t really made much of a difference. Our clients in fresh produce who supply to supermarkets have had a great year and recruitment has continued, but processes have changed, and we’ve seen innovative examples of candidates being interviewed by video and onboarded virtually. Obviously for foodservice suppliers, the situation is still very difficult, and I do feel for our friends in the hospitality sector.
As for Brexit, your guess is as good as mine! Let’s see what 2021 brings.
What changes do you expect to see in fresh produce recruitment over the next 10 years?
I don’t think there will be any big changes in the short term. We still expect a shortage of candidates as the awareness piece we talked about earlier will take time. Innovations in automation and advances in technology will mean that the types of jobs will change again.
I would guess that in 10 years’ time there will be many job roles out there that we’re not even aware of yet. It’s up to us as recruitment experts to stay up to date with these trends and help our clients find the best people for the jobs.