One of three major concerns Casale heard from cooperative locations loud and clear is the lack of qualified employees. But the issue goes deeper than simply finding more people to hire — an aging and highly skilled workforce will be retiring soon, potentially taking with them decades of skill and knowledge.
Within the cooperative system, more than half of the cooperative leadership will retire in the next 15 years, and at the same time, some 52,000 ag related job openings are available each year. And all this against the backdrop of an industry that will need to double its food output by the year 2050, while adapting to a far more complicated business model that will be more regulated, globally competitive, and technically more complex.
Needless to say, the issue is getting plenty of attention and CHS is taking a proactive approach. Under the auspices of CHS’ Business Solutions group, the company is initiating numerous programs to identify, attract and retain new talent, says Allan Larson, senior manager for recruiting and organizational development. A new Web-based initiative will allow cooperative owners to publicize job openings throughout the cooperative system, and will allow locations to connect with each other more easily.
Larson notes that there have been occasions where a location has gotten several applications from qualified candidates for single job opening, and the other individuals not hired simply disappeared. When coops are more connected to other coop job openings, candidates might be shared with other locations and more openings might get filled. Cooperatives are now being offered the opportunity to link into this new careers section of the CHS Website.
CHS is also working on cultivating new pipelines of talent, including non-ag professionals with management experience in other fields, interns and new graduates, both inside and outside ag, and talent from abroad.