Apprenticeships at the UK’s largest machinery ring are under threat due to a lack of farmers coming forward as mentors.
Ringlink Scotland managing director Graham Bruce warned the pioneering Land-Based Pre-Apprenticeship Programme ‘would fail’ unless they can find placements for the pre-apprenticeships.
Mr Bruce said: “While I recognise how challenging this year has been for us all, it is crucial we continue to look for and provide the opportunities required to make the programme work.”
Despite a difficult recruitment process due to Covid-19, the programme still managed to place 45 apprentices between Ringlink Scotland, Borders Machinery Ring and Tarff Valley.
Of these, 28 were with Ringlink members, but the suspension of Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency driving tests for tractors and other delays led to seven of these dropping out.
Mr Bruce told the co-operative’s annual meeting that Ringlink had supported the farming industry in maintaining a ‘business as usual’ approach to food production.
He said: “Favourable spring weather allowed members to work at a steady rate and, with many people on furlough, many of the non-farming businesses did not require their usual number of seasonal workers. This resulted in a 30 per cent downturn in our labour volumes in the March to June period.”
Ringlink had used the Government’s job retention scheme, placing 150 workers on furlough during the main lockdown period, but by July and August it was back to deploying more than 400 workers every day.
The pandemic had also caused a five-month delay in the construction of the new head office extension at Laurencekirk, although the handover was now imminent.
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