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In February of 2020, I moved to Ireland from the UK, in order to continue my career as a Food Manufacturing recruiter. I knew I was stepping into an industry with a deep heritage, quality products, international prestige and growth prospects well into the future. The agri-food and drink sector accounted for 10% of Ireland’s total exports and 7% of its total employment

At my time of relocating, I thought that grappling with Brexit was going to be the defining challenge for the industry.

After a couple of weeks, things were looking very positive. I’d introduced myself to members of the meat and fresh produce industry here and my intro’s were well received. I’d picked up various senior management roles almost immediately and I thought “I’m off to the races here!”.

In March, well, we all know the story by now…

After various conversations with hiring managers and directors of the companies which I was working with, I had to down tools. I knew that the food industry could not close its doors, otherwise people would go hungry so I just had to bide my time and wait for the “nod” in a few weeks time (or so I thought!). 

Over the course of the next few months, various Departments stepped in, visiting sites and Directors. A plan was put in place to maintain supply chains and keep the country fed. Whilst companies whose sole offering was to the foodservice/catering industry saw their business slow down, others, who had sites which supplied the retailers were agile and either shared production or had extra orders to fulfill and quickly changed tact. 

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In terms of recruitment, after robust plans were put together and companies were more comfortable operating with the reality of COVID, clients were back on the phone looking to arrange interviews, although site visits were strictly off the table. 

Businesses moved towards video calls, meetings off-site and various other methods which enabled them to keep interested parties interested. Some businesses chose to conduct interviews during a walk in the park or over a socially distanced dinner table. Whilst other businesses have been happy with masks/visors being worn whilst entering the site/offices and until a socially distanced meeting outside had commenced as they didn’t want interviewees to feel uncomfortable. A couple of clients provided interviewees with letters from Directors to confirm what they were doing whilst driving across County borders for interviews  in order to soothe any concerns by the Gardai. 

In terms of the onboarding processes, clients have been brilliant!  Whilst each business has handled things differently, I’ve seen companies offer relocation packages plus a minimum 14 days quarantine on top for people I’ve placed who were coming from outside of the island of Ireland as they knew finding accommodation would be difficult. I’ve also seen businesses move to a more home based working model due to wanting less people on site, which has been a welcome change to some candidates.

When I moved across, I wondered if the demand for people would be different. I’ve found it to be very similar. In Ireland, there is a huge demand for Electrical Maintenance Engineers, managers with a strong understanding of C.I are wanted and Quality/Technical Managers who take pride in doing things properly are a shoe-in. From a managerial point of view, track record and qualifications is still the key differentiating factor.

If you are looking for  the next step in your career or are a food business who are looking for good people feel free to get in touch.  I’d be more than happy to chat.

Browse all our Food & Engineering related roles here. 

Sharon Kiely Azon Recruitment contact details


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