Martin Frayne grew up on a tillage and dairy farm in Co Wexford, which turned out to be a great starting point for the career path he eventually ended up taking.
After completing his studies in agricultural science in Waterford and Kildalton, Martin worked for Farm Relief Services (FRS) in the mid-80s.
But what important qualities from his background in agriculture translated well to the working world of recruitment?
“Growing up on the farm and then studying agriculture, it’s a very rounded experience because you learn how to solve problems [regularly]. You’re faced with something new and different all the time, it’s not a routine,” he says.
“With the various enterprises that we had at home; you were challenged with that. Then to go to college, learning the theory of it and to experience the learning process was excellent too.
“I was never going to stay at home on the farm, so for me it was a route to the agribusiness world. It was just an extension of where I grew up and I love that.”
Martin says that his background – especially his education – opened doors when he was looking at agribusiness for employment, as did the aforementioned problem-solving skills.
“Even at a young age I was able to solve the business problems that we face in the [recruitment] business and to grow and develop the business.”
Getting started in recruitment
Martin was the FRS manager in the northeast region and the company supplied services to the farming community, such as farm relief. With this job, Martin says he got to “cut his teeth” in the agribusiness sector.
“I started working with FRS in Co Meath, it was a fledgling business at that time and it grew into a large business,” he says.
That was a good grounding for myself and for that business
“It was a lot of the farming and agribusiness sector that we dealt with.
“That was a good grounding for myself and for that business.”
In 1999, Martin became managing director of recruitment company People Solutions.
It was one of the first companies to recruit workers from Ireland as well as eastern and central Europe to the food-processing, agribusiness and engineering sectors.
Martin explains how different the recruitment process was in that time.
“I remember visiting a number of the European countries to explore the possibility of people coming into Ireland from Hungary, Poland, Estonia, Latvia and so on,” he says.
The reliance that we have on foreign labour in this country is huge
“We visited a lot of those countries and met with colleges, students and with lecturers. It all started from there.
“We didn’t think at the time it was going to be as extensive as it is now.
“The reliance that we have on foreign labour in this country is huge, and that’s going to continue.”
Setting up Protential Resources
Then, in 2011, Martin co-founded Protential Resources. The company recruits in the agribusiness, food processing, construction, engineering and technology sectors.
The company recruits from all across Europe, as well non-EU countries (particularly Brazil). It recruits Irish workers for companies in continental Europe, or for Irish companies based in continental Europe.
Martin recalls the initial challenges of setting up Protential Resources.
People trust us to find the people that they want in order to do the job for them
“The challenge then was to get business and to develop business; getting clients to trust you to fulfil their needs. And we were good enough at that.
“People trust us to find the people that they want in order to do the job for them.”
Over the years, Martin and his team have built good relationships with clients and he says that now, Protential Resources has a lot of repeat-business.
Martin has seen an evolution of the recruitment sector over the years.
“In the last four years particularly, we’ve seen that there are a lot of people coming to work in production, food processing and agriculture. We have a lot of bookings for people to work on farms and in horticulture as well.”
Ireland has educated itself into a smart economy
When it comes to food processing, Martin estimates that 95% is foreign labour. While in other sectors, such as construction, it is mainly Irish.
“Ireland has educated itself into a smart economy and that’s great, but it does leave a void with certain sectors,” he explains.
The challenge now is to attract people to work in Ireland. A positive development has been the shift in employer sentiment in this regard.
Martin says in the past number of years, an increasing number of clients are providing perks like accommodation for candidates and meeting additional needs in order to attract talent.
The Irish agri-sector continues to grow, so will the demand for recruitment.