Which drivers of change will affect their skills?
The sector-relevant technical skills that correspond to the type of resource they work with are very important for skilled agricultural, forestry and fishery workers. However, workers in this occupation need also possess a range of transversal and basic skills to adapt to changing production processes, and to other sector-specific changes and challenges.
Advanced machinery and robotics are gradually fulfilling roles previously carried out by labourers in the farming sector. While their use presents an array of opportunities for boosting resource efficiency, farmers increasingly need to adapt their operations and maintenance expertise to use equipment effectively, and maximise the productivity and lifespan of machinery 4
. The prevalence of robotics and advanced machinery in agriculture will diversify the role of the farmer, moving away from old farming methods, manual labour and basic machinery maintenance, towards maintaining agricultural robots (‘agribots’).
Developments in analytical software and cloud computing pertinent to agriculture offer farmers e-tools they can consult in carrying out their activities and completely new approaches such as “precision farming 5
. Software can also store digital evidence to be presented to national and EU agricultural regulators on the fulfilment of subsidy conditions. Data management is likely to become an important skill in farming practice, allowing workers to process information collected from different sensors and mapping systems 6
Climate change and environmental degradation increase farmers’ responsibilities on conservation and environmental management. Farmers need to maintain the productivity of their land while facing extreme weather events, potential water shortages etc. As agricultural and fishery practices are central to promoting environmental sustainability, there is a growing need for skilled agricultural workers to understand how environmental sustainability is integral and applicable to their everyday practice (i.e. managing pesticide and other chemical use, reducing carbon dioxide emissions, using renewable energy, and managing water resources) 7
Shifting consumer demand for non-traditional fish species, driven by the desire for sustainably sourced products requires understanding of marine protection zones and skills on managing non-traditional fish stocks. This same shifting consumer demand also increases the demand for farmers’ understanding of and skills on organic production methods and an awareness of pertinent market regulations 8
EU and national level regulations, including the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), have been implemented across the EU with the aim of reducing some of the negative externalities of farming, fishing and forest management. CAP regulations require farmers to have an up-to-date understanding of evolving regulations and awareness of sustainable practices to make the most efficient use of resources 9
Agriculture is challenged by the ageing of its workforce to a greater extent than most sectors in Europe 10
. Among others, this highlights the importance of succession planning skills, with greater emphasis on career development 11
. In turn, senior skilled agricultural workers need to be able to communicate technical information, along with the ability to mentor and identify new areas for improvement within their own workforce.
Risk of automation: As a part of its Digitalisation and future of work project
, Cedefop estimates the risks of automation
for occupations. The most exposed occupations are those with significant share of tasks that can be automated – operation of specialised technical equipment, routine or non-autonomous tasks – and those with a small reliance on communication, collaboration, critical thinking and customer-serving skills. The risk of automation is further accentuated in occupations where employees report little access to professional training that could help them to cope with labour market changes. Farmworkers and gardeners are reportedly an occupation with average risk of automation.
“The fishing industry is [now] a multi-million pound industry where skippers and their crews are expected to work on modern vessels and be highly skilled technicians operating a range of electronic instruments. More skills and expertise are required to be proven via qualifications and/or be endorsed by certified bodies, requiring fishers to attend training courses including basic sea survival, fire fighting, first aid, and health and safety. In addition, skippers, mates and engineers working on fishing vessels above a certain length and engine power, or operating in certain sea areas, are required to hold statutory Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) Certificates of Competency”.
Source: Marine Management Organisation 12