Online job board Totaljobs has reported seeing skyrocketing demand for agricultural positions as thousands of employees look for work as a result of being displaced during the coronavirus pandemic.
The company said there was an 83 per cent increase in applications for farming roles during March as the farming and ag sectors try to recruit some 80,000 seasonal workers they need for harvesting.
"The UK farming sector has historically suffered from a shortage of seasonal workers, which has only been further exacerbated by recent tightening of immigration rules and the unavailability of staff due to border closures," says Steve Warnham, Content and Communications Manager at Totaljobs. "The increased interest in farming and agricultural role reflects a wider trend that we are seeing across other essential industries including logistics, healthcare and security."
Totaljobs says applications doubled in the second half of the month and are trending to be as much as three times higher through early April.
It says candidates across all demographics are actively searching for farming roles on site, with huge increases for ‘fruit picker’ (338% increase) and ‘farm worker’ (107% increase). Candidates are also looking more generally, with searches for ‘farm’ (130% increase) and ‘agriculture’ (66% increase) both on the up.
"Tens of thousands of people are coming forward to help farmers feed the nation," says Mark Bridgeman, President of the Country Land and Business Association. "This is wonderful news and shows a tremendous ‘can do’ attitude at these difficult times. Make no mistake, we still need many more to do the same.
"We all know this is a deeply concerning period and we are all determined to do all we can to help the country through it. In order to do so, we must recognise that farmers supply of labour is in jeopardy. A shortage of 80,000 workers is something we have never seen before. This is why we are calling for a ‘Land Army’ of workers to support farmers in feeding the country."
With predictions that up to a million people could lose their job due to COVID-19, there was 30% increase in new users signing up to apply for jobs. There were 4.6 million applications on the Totaljobs website in March alone – a 7% increase on the average month in 2019.
Other sectors seeing significant growth in applications, as Warnham mentioned, include logistics roles such as warehouse operations and driving, which attracted applications from 68,000 new users, equivalent to a third of all new applicants. Roles in healthcare have also seen a 7% monthly increase in advertised roles for doctors, a 6% rise in nurse vacancies as well as a 67% increase in cleaning roles in the healthcare sector.