Skills shortage poses threat to 2025 target

Jamie Ball

Former Glanbia chief executive John Moloney has issued a call to arms for the agri-food industry to invest in the right people across the entire supply chain if Food Wise 2025's goal of increasing exports by 85pc to €19bn is to be achieved.

The agri-food strategy committee chair said skills gaps need to be identified and filled, but the industry must also present itself as smart and forward-looking and an exciting, opportunistic place to work. If the industry can recruit and retain top talent, in a "coherent and programmed fashion," Mr Moloney said Food Wise 2025's goals are entirely ­feasible and realistic.

"But it will require companies to take action in investing more in people. It requires the State to take action by supporting these companies. It requires Enterprise Ireland to continue a program of senior management development to enable people to scale-up organisations. And it requires Bord Bia supporting market access and market development, all of which are people-driven."

As previously reported in the Farming Independent, the agri-food industry's ability to attract the best graduates is a significant hurdle for the sector, with many of Ireland's top food graduates opting for more lucrative and progressive careers in the pharma or finance sectors, for example.

Mr Moloney said productivity analysis of innovation capital, knowledge capital and human capital, which global management consulting firm McKinsey & Company completed for the G8, concluded that "relative to other types of capital investment, investment in human capital produces a 40pc better marginal return."

In light of the findings, he said we should also consider recruiting overseas, as many talented Irish agri-food graduates have emigrated.

"They've gone to get more knowledge and experience. Attracting those back gives you the state of the art experience from those countries, but it also gives you experience in working in new markets.

"Ultimately the food industry here is about exports, so you've got to have insight into overseas markets. Food Wise 2025 is about being really relevant to the markets we're targeting and, therefore, having really sharp insight into future consumer behaviour, pattern and trends."

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