Taco van der Louw of FreshRecruitment on recruitment in fresh produce sector:

“We just need more people in the sector”

For more than 20 years, Taco van der Louw has been active in the fresh produce sector. Although he started as an agronomist, he started working in commercial positions in the international fresh produce sector more and more over the years. He now works as an independent entrepreneur, and he matches companies and candidates for FreshRecruitment in the fresh produce sector.

In his role as recruiter, Taco has, on the one hand, noticed an increase in international clients, and on the other hand, more and more foreign professionals are looking for a job in the Netherlands. The language and unknown market turn out to be obstacles. “The international clients in particular are finding it difficult to fill their vacancies, and need help from recruiters to increase the international aspect,” Taco mentions. He comes across problems when recruiting candidates for these functions. “I see very few young people who want to work in the fresh produce sector.” As a result, he fills Dutch vacancies with foreign candidates who have specific experience more and more. Vacancies for quality inspectors and commercial functions in particular turn out to be difficult to fill.

Taco has noticed the increasing ageing in the fresh produce sector causes problems regarding succession. “There’s an upper layer of employees who are now between 55 and 65, and they’ll be retiring within the next ten years.” That requires new people, in part because companies continue to grow, and companies are still added to this sector as well.

Taco mentions that very few people start at the bottom, and he thinks the cause of this is that young people don’t experience the fresh produce sector as sexy; the job often requires getting up early, long working days and irregular working hours. “A lot of young people don’t want that. They prefer nine-to-five, or even shorter hours.” The millennials have a different outlook on life, and matches with companies turn out not to be that obvious. The clients want to hire people that stay with the company for a longer period, while young people try out jobs to be assured their job is interesting. “That’s also because they often don’t have cars or mortgages. When you do have that, it’s an incentive, because you have to be sure of an income. I really see that changing. It’s no longer necessary to buy a house or be stuck with a car.” This requires action from business so as not to lose touch with the young employees. “I think we as a sector should look into that,” Taco says.

Fresh Academy?
Taco argues setting up a kind of Fresh Academy to help young people in the sector to develop themselves at various companies.

FreshRecruitment could play a part in that with other companies, in order to provide young people with an opportunity to become trained before, eventually, getting a job in the sector. Taco is open to entering into conversations with companies in the sector, to work together to see how young talent can be attracted, and how they can be trained. “I think this is very important, because otherwise we’ll have a major problem in the fresh produce sector in about ten years.” These problems can already be seen. It’s difficult for a lot of board members to find successors.

Taco partially blames that on a lack of focus on organisation and a lot of attention paid to trade. “If your organisation is set up properly and you have the right people, the rest just falls into place.”He has seen that companies that invest more into their human capital are more connected to millennials as well. Taco pleads for an open attitude and different approach so that the fresh produce sector can change along with its employees.

For more information
Taco van der Louw
T: +31 (0)85 – 0250130

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