Australia has a critical shortage of agricultural service technicians a new survey has found.
The survey was conducted by CNH Industrial, the parent company of Case IH and New Holland, of its national dealer network. About 90 per cent of the network took part.
Of the almost 800 jobs advertised by dealers from July 20, 2020, to June 21, 2021, half remained vacant.
Technician availability was the single biggest need and the most difficult to source, with the pool of suitable employees very limited in rural and regional areas, the survey found.
Of the dealers surveyed, 90pc had advertised for additional technicians since July 2020 but at the end of June 2021, only 41pc of these jobs had been filled.
Securing apprentices was also a challenge, with 76pc advertising for new first-year apprentices but just 69pc of the jobs had been filled over the same time period.
CNH Industrial agriculture managing director Brandon Stannett said the purpose of the survey was to collect feedback in relation to the resources available at dealer locations, with a particular focus on staffing levels around parts and service, as part of an ongoing strategy aimed at tackling the labour shortage issue.
"The results haven't come as a surprise to us - we are well aware of the difficulties our dealerships have, particularly in smaller and more remote locations, in recruiting and retaining skilled staff," he said.
"But the survey has confirmed where the greatest need is within our dealerships, and it highlights the importance of greater investment in a larger pool of qualified technicians and spare parts experts.
"In smaller towns, our dealerships are often one of the biggest employers, so it's not only farmers who are potentially losing out from labour shortages, but rural and regional communities and their economies as well."
On a state level, NSW followed by WA found it the most difficult to secure staff with more than 50pc of advertised jobs still open.
However the variance of the fill rate sits between 45pc and 59pc, which Mr Stannett said showed the demand was largely the same wherever dealers were based.
He said parts interpreters and salespeople were also in significant demand, with fill rates of 58pc for advertised sales positions, and 44pc for parts positions.
"It's clear these areas need to be addressed too, as they are just as critical in the life cycle of a machine," Mr Stannett said.
CNH Industrial and its dealers will continue to invest in training and development programs.
This includes a commitment to develop its own trainees within manufacturing facilities at Mannum, South Australia, and Cowra, NSW.
CNH Industrial has also run a dedicated Case IH and New Holland apprenticeship program alongside dealers through the Riverina TAFE for almost five years.
"This is all part of a multi-tiered plan we are developing alongside dealers, and with the support of the wider industry, government, training bodies and other stakeholders," Mr Stannett said.
"We're a proud organisation that provides critical products to the agricultural industry and combined with our independent, locally-owned dealerships that support those products, we're up to the challenge of supporting initiatives to grow our most important resource: people."
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