How foreign companies leaving will affect the labor market in the agricultural industry

The fact that geopolitical and macroeconomic conditions have changed in the spring of 2022 could not but affect the situation with the labor force as well. The Agrotekhnika i Tekhnologii (“Agrotechnics and Technology”) magazine investigated how the HR issues in the agro-industrial sector of Russia are solved now and what were the implications for the labor market when some foreign companies left the country. The journalists’ questions were answered by the leading specialists in the agricultural sector. Among them was Victoria Sharapova, the Vice-President for Human Resources and Organizational Development of ECO-Culture holding.

It is obvious that the problem of personnel shortage in the agro-industrial complex requires a systemic solution, which should start with the system of higher professional education. With a lack of motivation from the applicants, the agricultural areas of higher education are not the ones in high demand today. What is needed is to change the educational system to make it more oriented towards producing professionals aimed at long-term employment in the sector. Besides, it is extremely important to improve the quality of education of agricultural personnel in higher education institutions, as in many cases they provide knowledge that cannot be applied within specific enterprises. One way to remedy the situation is to make sure current experts in the industry are involved in the training process.

Another problem is that a significant number of young city residents, failing to score enough points on the Unified State Exam, apply to agricultural universities with lower passing grades, just to get a degree certificate. The bad thing hereafter, they do not plan to work in the field.

Viktoria Sharapova, however, believes that students entering industry-specific universities without the right number of points to get into prestigious universities is not the biggest issue. As a matter of fact, most applicants still go to the institutions following their vocation or based on their previous work experience. This latter option is, of course, the industry’s greatest value.

Those who have already worked in agriculture and know how things work here are in high demand right upon graduation. Such students have a strong need to thoroughly master the content at hand and acquire fundamental knowledge. Further on, they use it to advance their careers and make progressive changes both in the industry and within the enterprise that employs them.

The involvement of representatives of major agricultural companies in universities also contributes to changing the workforce situation for the better. After all, enterprises clearly know what kind of specialists they need and what kind of skills they require. As for general educational programs, the knowledge these give to students is clearly not enough: the situation in agribusiness is changing as rapidly as in other sectors of the economy. For this reason, the largest companies in the industry are interested in producing professionals with the ready-to-use package of the latest knowledge and competencies.

ECO-Culture holding, being one of the largest producers and investors in the Russian indoor vegetable cultivation industry, conducts systematic cooperation with several agrarian universities. The company has permanent partners among specialized institutions and long-term cooperation agreements in the regions of its presence.

As noted by Victoria Sharapova, the holding is open to discussing any format of interaction with universities. The current needs of institutions that train specialists for the agricultural sector include digitization and more advanced teaching methods. At the same time, they should establish closer contact with business representatives. The holding is willing to transfer its knowledge and skills relevant to the greenhouse industry. As indoor vegetable production is rapidly developing, there are many advanced technologies and innovations to master. Meanwhile, ECO-Culture’s specialists have a lot to share not only with the students but with their professors as well.

Concerning the fact that many foreign companies have left the domestic market and the number of specialists entering the labor market increases, ECO-Culture’s top manager believes that the agrarian sector is unlikely to be affected by this. The truth is, people formerly employed by foreign firms usually do not have the necessary specific expertise or experience in the Russian present-day reality. Still, we should not expect a rapid positive effect on the agro-industrial complex from the fact that some foreign employers are leaving the country. The labored market is expected to be restructured, but it will take a rather long time to manifest itself.

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