Building a workforce in the countryside

Today marks the start of National Countryside Week, The Prince’s Countryside Fund’s annual campaign that aims to raise awareness and celebrate the values of our countryside. As over 59 percent of Landmarc employees live in either a ‘rural’ or ‘rural in a sparse setting’ location, we strive to build a workforce that supports our countryside’s future. Landmarc’s Corporate HR Manager, Adam Hudson, explains more.

“Rural areas face a range of additional costs for what many would consider a standard service – with a lower economy of scale and higher per-capita costs, it can be difficult for service providers to meet the needs of the rural population. 

“Lack of investment in areas such as public transport and broadband means that rural communities often struggle to access many services – and when they do, these services tend to be more expensive. Companies are often discouraged from investing in these small communities with minimum financial gain, which can cause rural isolation and create an unfair disadvantage among jobseekers. 

“Research shows that the majority of employers tend to place vacancies online, as it is often a more cost-effective means of advertising. But for many rural candidates, internet connectivity issues can exclude them from seeing these positions, thus leaving them at a distinct disadvantage. In contrast, many smaller employers don’t advertise at all and rely on word-of-mouth, which can exclude any newcomers to the area or those without local contacts. 

“It would be easy to reach the conclusion that these barriers make finding and accessing employment in the countryside too problematic; yet some statistics do offer a more positive viewpoint. For example, the Government’s rural business statistics show that there are proportionally more small businesses and registered businesses per head of population, in predominantly rural areas, than in predominantly urban areas (excluding London). 

“Again, studies show that employees in rural areas tend to remain with their employer for longer, resulting in a lower staff turnover rate. When coupled with an ageing rural population, this can leave fewer available positions for younger employees looking for their first step on the career ladder. Rural employment is typically diverse, and many positions are unique, making skills shortages and accurate talent matching a huge factor in employment. 

“To minimise these issues, Landmarc frequently attend local recruitment fairs, which have proved to be an excellent means of engaging directly with prospective candidates. Whilst we continue to advertise online, we supplement this with the more traditional print advertising in local newspapers as well as hyper-local networks such as community noticeboards, shops, local libraries and even pubs! 

“Rural migration, coupled with skilled workers nearing retirement, means that some core skills are left in short supply. This has left employers vitally needing their businesses, and their employees, to have full access to the same infrastructure, data and analytics as their urban counterparts in order to compete in a modern world. 

“Investment in training presents employers with a great opportunity to develop employees through life-long learning. However, the location of approved providers and the perceived productivity losses while employees are undertaking training, can present challenges to employers, particularly for businesses with a wide geographical spread. 

“As a national employer, we take full advantage of the Government’s Apprenticeship Levy, which enables us to access a training fund to upskill our existing workforce in England as well as to bring new apprentices into the business. 

“Part of our commitment to retaining and sharing skills is our skills’ exchange programme. The average age of our workforce is 51 and with this age profile comes a wealth of experience. These staff work with the new generation of recruits to pass on their knowledge to ensure that we retain these important skills for the future. 

“The more local employment that exists, the more mutually-beneficial the area becomes for everyone. For this fact to become reality, rural businesses must work hard to retain employment in their area. Using recruitment and procurement initiatives, which are designed to keep investment buoyant in the local community, can only have a positive impact.”

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