A new app that connects seasonal workers with horticultural employers promises to streamline the hiring process.
It was notoriously difficult for horticulture businesses to find and keep skilled staff, Jobloads founder Candice Pardy said.
As a persimmon orchard owner who has struggled to find workers when needed, Pardy said she knew first-hand the frustration of employers.
But the app was also designed to tackle social issues and bring “mana” to workers, she said.
Pardy developed the Jobloads app during lockdown, after her first app, Carloads, which connected workers with transport options was thwarted by social distancing rules
While Carloads was now on the back burner it would eventually become part of the service Jobloads offered, she said.
The app was free to use for jobseekers and provided businesses with a more streamlined approach to hiring.
Job seekers went through a three stage-screening process to make sure they were a good fit and that they were ready to work.
The screening picked up if a person faced any particular barriers to work including not having a reliable ride, running out of data on their phone or not being able to afford petrol – and helped overcome them.
“In that regard we are social platform,” she said.
Job seekers could interact with a free bot if they had no mobile phone credit or data.
The app would also provide transparency for workers, including the amenities that would be provided by the employer, the pay rate and working conditions. This would help weed out “cowboy contractors” and worker exploitation, she said.
On the employer side, they would understand the goals of that worker through reading a profile before employing them.
“We know that the challenge growers face is finding that reliable local worker. We surveyed heaps of growers. Everyone said the same thing – they prefer RSE (Recognised Seasonal Employers) workers.
“And I get it. Those workers come here with an intent. They want to work and send money home to their families. We’ve got to start to look back at ourselves and build mana in our local people as well.”
The app would recognise workers that formed good habits like working all their scheduled shifts, being punctual and learning new skills, Pardy said.
Jobs were uploaded and matched to the right workers without employers having to work through contracts and check CVs, she said.
The app collected personal information like contact details, bank accounts and Inland Revenue numbers and provided these to employers once they had selected workers.
What is the Recognised Seasonal Employer scheme?
Pardy received $150,000 grant from the Ministry of Maori Development, Te Puni Kokiri to develop the app, which was being piloted in the Gisborne area, where the company is based.
Jobloads was also seeking $500,000 in seed funding from angel investors and iwi trusts. Pardy said iwi had a mutual interest in supporting the employment, training and development of Maori, particularly those impacted by Covid-19.
The app would be rolled out nationally after October, she said.
She hoped the app would also help people gain permanent employment.
“Now we have an oversupply of people who need jobs plus displaced people from tourism and hospitality,” she said.
Te Puni Kokiri Maori growth lead Chris Barker said the grant was to help Jobloads grow.
“It’s a really innovative Maori tech business that could be a real game changer within their sector. They have a strong Maori kaupapa to how they run the business, but also the whanau centred approach to the tech service they developed,” he said.
“I was one of eight with a solo mum and most of my whanau didn’t have a great start. I think that builds resilience, but lacking clear role models was the thing. I know we can create role models through the platform,” she said.
She was also focussed on creating more “life-friendly” work options for Maori women and mothers, who she said were the hardest workers.
Pardy wanted to improve the base rates of pay for seasonal workers who were often stuck on adult minimum wage.
“As an employer, I would pay more for quality and reliability,” she said.