Drive to professionalise agricultural industry

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THE drive to professionalise the agricultural industry is working, according to local farmer and vice-chairman of Spalding & District Young Farmers Will Tyrrell.

An AgriSkills Forum was set up in 2008 in response to the difficulties employers were having nationally in filling certain jobs because there weren’t enough applicants with suitable skills. It was estimated that 60 per cent of jobs within some agricultural sectors were ‘hard to fill’.

A strategy was established to professionalise the industry, and in particular to ensure more people had a high level of competence that was clearly demonstrable.

Chairman of the forum Richard Longthorp explained that while the agricultural industry was very skilled, much of it was “very informal”.

However, Will, who farms at Cowbit, says his experience is that, as time goes on, more and more people are furthering their education, as he did by gaining a BSc (Honours) in Agriculture and Mechanisation following a two-year National Diploma in Agriculture at Riseholme College in Lincoln.

Will suggested that agricultural work had changed in many respects, and so workers also had to acquire different skills. He pointed to potato harvesting and the way in which the work of gang labour picking by hand had been replaced by one machine, with one operator in charge of it.

At Riseholome College, a number of successful employer partnerships enable students to get more hands-on experience of the latest technology they need to prepare for careers in farming, according to head of further education Bill Meredith.

Arrangements with machinery manufacturers and local dealerships provided access to the latest equipment, and sponsorship provided by the Lincolnshire Agricultural Machinery Manufacturers Association (LAMMA) had been especially welcome, he said.

He added: “Frontier Agriculture has a crop demonstration site on the college farm and the students are able to evaluate the benefits of different precision farming systems and the relative merits of the latest agrochemicals. Course content is constantly changing to reflect industry needs and students are encouraged to think about farmers as being energy producers and carbon managers as well as food producers.”