The agricultural industry must revolutionise its approach to skills and training if it wants to attract the right people to drive productivity in the future.
This ambition is the foundation of a new industry coalition which will work collaboratively with all sectors to revolutionise the skills gap in agriculture.
The Senior Skills Leadership Group, which includes AHDB, retailers, manufacturers, leading food producers, farmers and agricultural colleges, will create a framework with new qualifications relevant to the needs of employers in the future, develop career paths and fresh approaches to recruitment, and encourage mechanisms for continued professional development and business support.
The move follows recommendations from The Swadling Report, funded by AHDB and co-commissioned by Lord Don Curry to analyse work undertaken in the development of skills and the support available for the agricultural and horticultural industry.
The report revealed UK agricultural productivity lags behind other countries and the lack of the right skills has been widely identified as a key factor. While the agricultural and horticultural industry is highly skilled, the level of qualifications is low by comparison with other sectors, there is poor uptake of continuing professional development and less than 35% of UK farmers have any formal management training.
It highlighted this is largely due to a lack of awareness of options and benefits, a mismatch in funding and industry needs and a general inertia to develop people. There is recognition of the need to bring more professionalism to the industry and that this is necessary to meet public expectations for post-Brexit support for agriculture to continue. The impending implications of Brexit means there is a recognised urgency to address the situation in a transformational manner.
Transforming our approach
Only by professionalising the industry will we be able to attract the right people and this need for change is already being spearheaded by a new coalition which aims to revolutionise the skills gap in agriculture.
The UK agricultural sector was criticised in an AHDB paper from January last year for falling behind other countries on offering training programmes for staff. It said: “British farmers and growers underinvest in new skills and training relative to their competitors.”
The sector is already facing a big skills gap on middle and general managers, technical staff and low-skilled, seasonal labour, compounded by a lack of agricultural knowledge among young people today.
Jane King, chief executive of AHDB, wants the group to work collaboratively across all sectors as it progresses in the forthcoming months.
“We need transformation of our skills in primary agriculture and horticulture for the industry to thrive in the future,” she says. “This includes a fresh approach to attracting and recruiting talent, clearer career routes, employer-led training and qualifications and new tools and a positive attitude towards lifelong learning.
“The Senior Skills Leadership Group is working closely with the Food and Drink Sector Council to introduce a new skills strategy which will be a cornerstone to helping us lift our productivity long-term.”
The need to attract skilled individuals into agriculture and showcase the wealth of career opportunities also forms the basis of a campaign launched by Farmers Guardian in conjunction with 21 key industry organisations.
#ThisIsAgriculture aims to educate the wider world about the wealth of opportunities available in the sector, as well as dispelling common myths about careers in agriculture.
It is also working with industry bodies and our industry partners to see where we can work together to shape the political agenda, drive educational reform and provide learning resources.
For more information about the campaign or to get involved visit fginsight.com/thisisagriculture