A new initiative has launched this week to encourage new entrants into the industry and offer a wide range of skills development.
Morrisons’ new £2 million programme is borne out of the supermarket’s decision to transfer up to 25 per cent of its annual apprenticeship levy funds to support employers within their supply chain.
The aim is to help address skills issues facing the farming community and provide vital opportunities for people to get onto the career ladder and learn new skills. The move follows research by the Prince’s Countryside Fund, which revealed the average age of UK farmers is 59 and only 3 per cent of UK farmers are under the age of 35.
The report, entitled ‘Who would be a farmer today’, also confirmed the industry is facing a number of recruitment issues, including fewer farmers’ children wanting to run their family businesses.
Additionally, in urban areas, there may not be enough knowledge of the countryside to generate an interest in working in farming, with 16 per cent of 18- to 24-year-olds stating they have never visited a farm before.
While it is hoped the opportunity will provide a platform to attract more people from urban communities into farming,the programme will also support employers within the supply chain to help address the skills shortage facing the farming community.
The apprenticeship funding will equip would-be farmers with the broad skills needed. It will also upskill apprentices with business knowledge of how to provide for food manufacturers and retailers within the supply chain.
David Potts, Morrisons chief executive, says: “We are British farming’s single largest customer, so it makes sense to invest our apprenticeship fund to contribute to more new farmers being skilled to provide food for the nation.
“We hope people from all backgrounds will be attracted to these important jobs.”
Speaking at the Great Yorkshire Show on Tuesday (July 9), Minette Batters, president of the NFU, said: “It is great to see a retailer investing in skills and I applaud what it is doing and would like to see more retailers getting involved in such schemes. Apprenticeships are an important way into agriculture.
“Training and skills development also ensures there is a professional, flexible and reliable workforce, as well as helping attract new entrants to the industry.”
To find out more about the Farming Apprenticeship Scheme, or to apply, visit morrisons-farming.com
THERE are three programme options, depending on what the young applicants want to do:
WITH butchery in his blood, Yorkshire-born Logan Nicholson, 23, had already turned his hand to it during his time as a young chef.
Having studied professional cookery at Peterborough Regional College, he enjoyed using the skill as part of his job at a restaurant. After further encouragement from his father, who works as a trainer at Morrisons, he decided to apply for the manufacturing butcheryapprenticeship scheme and was successful.
Attending an open day at Woodhead Brothers, Spalding, offered an insight into what opportunities were on offer and how the scheme works and Logan has not looked back.
He says: “It was never a rushed learning process and I was able to work comfortably to get to a level where I could then work on the butchery line with speed every day.”
A key highlight was the opportunity to become involved in Mastercraft in 2018, an in-house competition that recognises and rewards colleagues’ specialist knowledge and practical skills in their relevant trades.
Logan joined florists, bakers, fishmongers and fellow butchers to complete a series of tasks which required him to use a variety of skills from cutting down a leg to a range of presentation skills.
He says: “There was one group of professionals and one group of apprentices and I was the youngest, with the least experience. I walked away from the competition in second place and realised I had come a long way since I started and I did not need to keep doubting myself.”
Logan has recently completed his apprenticeship and secured a pass for excellence for his practical skills.
When asked if there were particularly influential people who contributed to his training, Logan says: “Andy Giles, who is the external trainer, taught us there are different ways of completing jobs and it was down to us to find our own way. There was never a one-size-fits-all approach.
“Clive Beecham, who is a Morrisons line leader, trained me on the butchery line and helped me with the practical skills.
“As part of the scheme, we also had a ‘buddy system’, where you get the chance to be partnered up with a person already in that role. It meant I could run at my own speed, but had help on hand if I needed it.”
Now with the apprenticeship firmly under his belt, he is looking for his next challenge and hopes to become a team manager in the near future.
He says: “I want to progress myself the best way I can.”
For Logan, completing anapprenticeship is an effective way for young people to enter a company.
“You can secure a wage and learn so many new skills with lots of support along the way. It is a smart way to learn great skillsets and, for me, it was the best way tolearn the job, taking time in the classroom to extensively learn the theory of the job, alongside the practical work.
FARMERS across the UK are pledging their support for this year’s 24 Hours in Farming. You can take part on any social media platform including Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, from 5am on Thursday, August 8.
We want to know about your typical working day and any other activities you might be involved in, such as hosting farm visits, meeting fellow farmers or professionals, attending meetings or adopting new strategies on-farm.
Throughout the day, FG will be encouraging engagement by commenting, sharing and collating posts into stories throughout the whole event.
Download your free 24 Hours in Farming poster to share with others on your site, or send in a picture pledging your support, at FGinsight.com/24HoursinFarming