Investing in the next generation of talent Danny Johnson, ABN’s commercial director, gives his insight on the importance of matching skill sets and investing in the next generation of farming talent.
The challenges of both the global pandemic and Brexit have presented a greater appreciation of the relationship between food and farming, and a window of opportunity for us to attract the next generation of talent to our industry.
We are approaching a new era of farming, based around efficiency, competitiveness, data and science. While core values will remain, real time information, agri-biotechnology and precision farming will require us to think differently.
If we are to employ only people from the same backgrounds, with the same experiences, we will invariably come up with the same answers as we do today. Farms are businesses - with the challenges of labour, technology and volatile market conditions the skill base needed to be successful in the modern day is broad, complex and constantly evolving. It is for these reasons that we partnered with the NFU to set up the Poultry Industry Programme (PIP).
Support structures providing professional networks and formal training for farmers remain limited, and the programme aims to develop a base of core skills including people management, negotiation, business planning and lobbying. As a programme committee we work hard to review content to keep it current and address changing trends such as the growing importance of PR and marketing in the battle to promote the credence attributes of our high quality British produce.
For industry the challenge is perhaps more focussed on the attraction and retention of talent from different backgrounds and cultures. While local knowledge will always be key, our reach and influences are global.
In ABN we have a range of initiatives to try and bring new people into the business. Whether it be an entry level position within our Customer Support Team, our Graduate and placement schemes, or apprenticeships within our mills - our focus remains on creating an exciting environment to work in and a springboard for the development of a successful career.
I have worked in agriculture for over 20 years but do not come from a farming background. ABN is part of ABF (Associated British Foods) and as an ABF employee my career has included working within various forms of agriculture, from horticulture to sugar beet, and now the meat sector. I firmly believe that once you get involved in agriculture, at whatever level, you build an emotional bond with it, unlike any other sector. We need to take this opportunity to provide paths and opportunities for people from a diverse range of backgrounds to join us and make that connection.