Sunday, October 2, 2022

Experts are in short supply – desperately wanted: Agricultural Machinery Mechanic

Agricultural machinery mechanics are in high demand – not just in their industry. One problem: wages.

Farmer cultivating his field on tractor. A familiar image to many. On the other hand, the people who repair tractors and service the vehicle regularly are perhaps less well known: agricultural machinery mechanics.

Andreas Ruckli manages the agricultural machinery company “Martin Ruckli AG” in Butichholz, Lucerne, one of over 800 companies in Switzerland. The family business cannot survive with the sale of tractors alone – there are 1 to 5 units per year depending on the course of the business – it requires other mainstays such as repair, maintenance and sales of other agricultural machinery.

Tractor is still the hobby horse for an agricultural machinery mechanic.

But for Andreas Rukli, vehicles are still the object of prestige: “The tractor is still the hobby horse for an agricultural machinery mechanic. We can’t do without tractor. And there’s a lot going on in terms of development, new machines, digitization.”

(also) lack of skilled workers due to low hourly rates

Reto Vespi completed his four-year apprenticeship as an agricultural machinery mechanic with Andreas Rukli this summer and will continue to work there. His teachers are feeling relieved by this. Because the industry is facing acute shortage of skilled workers.

Agricultural machinery mechanics are well trained and therefore very popular in the industry. The churn is high. One reason is wages: 4,300 to 4,500 francs per month depending on the company after apprenticeship.

Low wages, in turn, result in a problem that many agricultural machinery companies have: in their view, they charge their customers, i.e. farmers, much less than the hourly rate. Andreas Rukli charges 95 francs for an hour’s work on the tractor – excluding VAT. This is sometimes much less than the hourly rate at a car mechanic.

Association wants to take the problem by hand

Agricultural machinery association Agrotech, along with board member Werner Berger, wants to address the issue of “hourly rates” for its member companies: “It’s about being able to be an attractive employer over the long term. For this, we need to sell ourselves a little bit better. Communicate our top-notch services better. To ultimately bring profitability in operations.”

I don’t think farmers don’t want to stop paying. As always, it’s supply and demand.

On the other hand sits Roman Engeler, director of the Swiss Agricultural Engineering Association. It represents the interests of about 20,000 farmers. Regarding the tariff problem, he says: “I don’t think farmers don’t want to pay anymore. As always, it’s supply and demand. An agricultural machinery company has to calculate. Can I apply the billing rate? Or not? Will a farmer still come to me with his machine for service? And in general it is like this: the wage level in agriculture is not as high as in the second or third sector.”

Understanding of Agricultural Machinery Entrepreneur

Andreas Ruckli has a client Sepp Tschopp. The farmer runs a pig farming facility in Kaltbach, Lucerne. He grows fodder for his own animals. The tractor he wanted for this was bought by him from Rukli.

Regarding the problem of the hourly rate, he says: “In my case, there is a pig exchange. With higher production as at present, prices fall from 8 francs per kg to 3.40 francs per kg. They are of devastating value to me. So I can invest or not depending on the market condition.»

Andreas Rukli can understand this logic. But it is of no use to him. After all between agricultural machinery companies and farmers understand each other. In fact tariffs are a good basis for solving the problem.

Nation World News Desk
Nation World News Desk
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