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A different kind of summer trip

With University students now having completed dissertations and A level students not having to sit exams, thoughts are turning to what to do in the long summer break. Plans to Interrail or visit far flung countries are in tatters and questions are being asked as to how the long days can be filled.

Perhaps an answer lies deep within the British countryside ……

We are advised that unless the British farming industry fills the 90,000 fruit and vegetable-picking jobs currently required, shortages and panic buying of fresh vegetables and fruit may be a reality while much needed produce is being left in the fields to rot. 

It is perhaps not a surprise to find out that in recent years as much as 98% of seasonal workers have come from eastern European countries, like Bulgaria and Romania. With Covid-19 having put a stop to seasonal migration, the country looks to its younger generation to fill the gap. But what is in it for them ?

Well, support seems to be coming from more traditional areas – both the UK Government and the Prince of Wales have urged students and furloughed workers to apply for seasonal farm work. To help allay the fears of some of those only temporarily available, the UK Government has confirmed that those who have been furloughed from their jobs due to the coronavirus and who are contractually allowed to work for another employer, can take on this seasonal work while continuing to receive 80% of their salary from the government.

But more importantly, what networks can be built whilst picking in the English countryside ? Just who is the person next to them and how could friendships, built now, be of significant benefit in the future ?

There is a growing belief that school leavers and recent graduates can earn money in very trying times, build much needed potential networks and do all of this whilst answering the country’s clarion call.

We are hearing daily tales of airline pilots stacking supermarket shelves whilst on furlough, executives delivering supermarket shopping, potentially good people to connect with via linkedin or social media. 18 – 25 year olds need to understand that these contacts may not bear fruit now, but may well do somewhere down the line.

Additionally, a friend made now whilst toiling under the British sun, may have the experience or knowledge that school leavers or graduates need to help them obtain work placement opportunities, places on graduate schemes or be in the role that people new to the job market seek. All of this potential opportunity exists, whilst carrying out a good deed that will shine brightly in an otherwise, reasonably bare, C.V.

The UK Government launched the Pick for Britain website (https://pickforbritain.org.uk/) to help match opportunities with people interested in helping. Please do check regularly as demand is changing on a daily basis.

And to answer the question being posed by nearly everyone – yes, the work is paid. Fruit picking can vary between £11 to £15 per hour, depending on productivity. Recent reports have, however, revealed that many farms are paying either the national minimum wage or are working on a piecework basis, with wages depending wholly on productivity. Please do check before agreeing to work.

A last thing to bear in mind, if you are considering helping, seasonal work could potentially affect your eligibility for certain benefits. It is essential that you seek advice before you apply.

Apart from that, a summer picking fruit, helping during a global pandemic, earning some much needed cash, all whilst potentially building networks that could blossom in the future, well, it’s got to be worth a try hasn’t it?

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