The UK’s poultry industry has a shortage of “chick-sexers” despite an above average £40,000 annual pay-packet.
Firms are finding it so tough to hire people to determine whether a chick is male or female, that the British Poultry has requested the job be put on an official government list of occupations with chronic staff shortages.
If the occupation was on the government list, it would make it easier for the industry to recruit outside of the EU, including from South Korea, where chick sexing is considered a high-status job.
However, the plea was struck down by the government Migration Management Committee, even though the industry failed to recruit a single vent chick sexer last year.
Chicken sexing is a delicate task which requires dexterity and good eyesight, and cannot be replicated by a machine. Workers are required to examine “minuscule differences” in chicks’ genitalia to decide the sex, Andrew Large, chief executive of the British Poultry Council told The Times.
Those who work in the industry are expected to sort as many as 1,000 chicks an hour – between 13 and 20 a minute — and hit 98 per cent accuracy rates over a 12-hour shift, without harming the animals.
But Mr Large said potential employees are discouraged by the three-year training period needed to “develop the sensitivity and dexterity to reliably sex the bird”.
The profession has caused controversy in the past, as male birds are sometimes discarded and killed if they are surplus to the requirement of the order.
However, Mr Large told MailOnline that the Council did not believe this was contributing to recruitment problems, and added that birds are “humanely culled” if they do not fit an order or cannot be used for meat.
The news comes after it was revealed last year that an insurance group in Sussex could not fill 800 job vacancies for four years due to a skills gap.
Lord Brett McLean, vice chairman of East Sussex Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), made the claims reported in The Argus during a speech at a financial seminar last October.