Time to bridge the training gap

23 Feb 2021

23 Feb 2021

With farming often viewed as a career for life, the need to upskill employees to increase motivation or improve staff retention has become a widely accepted concept.

But employers and employees from farming and ancillary industries have differing stances on training priorities, new data from Farmers Guardian’s This is Agriculture survey has found.

The survey was aimed at employers and employees to better understand their thoughts on the need to upskill and training opportunities available, with balanced representation from all sectors across the UK.

Attracting 331 responses, data is suggesting a clear disconnect between employers and employees answering the same question, with a lack of communication evident about training demands.

Employees aged 16-25 said they were more likely to apply for a job with training opportunities compared to older job seekers who were less enthused. But only 25 per cent of farm employers and 36 per cent of ancillary employers said they advertised training opportunities as a recruitment tool, a surprisingly low figure for an industry openly concerned about its skills gap.

Claire Morgan, a UK and international recruitment expert at Agricultural Recruitment Specialists, said job adverts which list training opportunities were seen as a ‘selling point’.

She said: “Candidates of all ages are looking for training opportunities and career development. This is a question we always ask employers when listing a new job and often the answer is yes. Yet 37 per cent of farm employees said they received no training days, with 13 per cent stating they had received one day and 17 per cent stating two, compared to 27 per cent of farm employers, who said they provided two training days and 14 per cent stating one to two weeks.

There is also a clear appetite for on-the-job training, with 85 per cent of farm employees stating they had received this form of training, while others cited seminars, conferences and events as other options. But only 58 per cent of farm employers said this was a method of training, raising questions about what is actually classed as ‘training’. 


David Fisher, head of industry partnerships at Lantra, said: “Training may be defined or explained as ‘new skills’, CPD or refresher training, which validates skills and knowledge. But employers may be referring to cumulative and ‘in-house’ training rather than individual days.

“Increasingly, we are seeing people engaging with e-learning in areas of legislation, ‘safe use’ and best practice, as this requires less time ‘off the tools’, which suits both employer and employee.”

A farm employer responding to the survey added: “It is time-sensitive. The farming calendar year means experience in certain aspects can only be gained once a year, for example shearing, lambing and tupping. It could take three years for an individual to develop a good skill level.

“A lot of young staff are also given menial tasks at lambing and they do not gain crucial skills for a couple of years.” The picture was similar for ancillary businesses, with 26 per cent of employees stating five training days and 16 per cent stating zero days, compared to 28 per cent of employers citing five days, 28 per cent citing one to two weeks and 16 per cent citing three weeks-plus. 

Associated industries

However, there was also a bigger emphasis on external coaching (63 per cent) for ancillary employees, highlighting the growing role within agricultural associated industries. Ms Morgan added setting personal, professional and business goals was a more productive way of identifying and measuring growth.  She said: “Employees often see training as a formal ‘course’. However, coaching and mentoring is generally one of the most productive forms of training which is often not recognised by the employee as training.