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Farm management skills: Industry must unite to recruit and retain staff

The need to upskill and train is one of the industry’s biggest challenges if it wants to remain competitive and the number of schemes available will be key to attracting and retaining the right people.


FG takes a look at some of the schemes focussed on self development...

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Farm management skills programme: Industry must unite to recruit and retain staff

Improving the skill levels of all involved in the agricultural sector through a greater commitment to training and development is crucial if the industry is to continue to be competitive.


Stuart Goodinson, managing director of De Lacy Executive Recruitment, believes the increase in the number of training schemes available is encouraging but says we must see greater engagement.


“The farming sector has traditionally been reluctant to invest in training, but the current environment means this must change,” he warns. “With the country close to full employment and with the continued uncertainly on labour supply in the Brexit freefall, there will be a shortage of people looking to enter the industry, especially as the image of agriculture puts many candidates off.


“The focus must therefore be on training and development, making the people in the industry better equipped, more versatile and feel more appreciated. We need to change the mindset.


“All too often the attitude seems to be ‘what will it cost be if I train someone and they leave?’ This needs to become ‘what will they cost me if I don’t train them and they stay?’


Mr Goodison says that with agriculture becoming more technology driven and sophisticated with increased access to data, those responsible for driving efficiency of production must develop the skills to exploit the opportunities.


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Empowering others

He believes that IT skills will continue to be in demand but says this go far beyond being comfortable with word processing and accessing the internet. “To use data to maximum effect will require people comfortable with analysing data.”


Staff and people management is another key area and he says that as businesses get bigger, successful operators will increasing become people managers, managing a team of skilled technicians and being able to get the best from that team.


“You will no longer be able to do every task better than anyone else. It will be about developing people with the key skills and then empowering them.


“This will mean embracing training and development, nurturing the people you have so they are more invested in the business. The schemes now available start to address this issue and I would urge those employed at farm level to seek out opportunities.


“However, the issue of training and development does not stop at the farm gate. To help farming businesses remain competitive, we need an agricultural supply trade that is equipped to support farmers and help get the most from new developments and this means training and development is equally important here. Some businesses are already very committed to skill development and more businesses need to follow their lead.”

Carl Martins, Mornios Contract Herdcare, Leicestershire

Carl Martins, Mornios Contract Herdcare, Leicestershire

Contractor Carl Martins s looking forward to the start of the Farm Skills Programme this autumn as he continues to develop his all round business skills.


Carl has been involved in dairy farming for more than 20 years and since 2010 has been the owner of Mornios Contract Herdcare, providing a range of services to 150 customers nationwide as well as offering Cow Signals and consultancy.


He is a strong advocate of self development and training and has been a long time member of the Institute of Agricultural Management.


“Working at a management level on a vast range of dairy units it is vital I have the technical skills to run the herd efficiently,” says Carl. “Increasingly we also get more involved in managing the farm’s own team so need strong personal and staff management skills.


“Currently I want to widen my skills to help with the contract herdcare business but the end game is to run our own farm when I will need the skills to run that business effectively.”


Pace of change


A self-confessed CPD junkie, he is currently undertaking a Masters at Aberystwyth and ensures his staff are also DairyPro endorsed as he stresses the need to develop new skills because the industry is changing so quickly.


“The pace of change is remorseless so anyone running a farm business must look to evolve themselves and learn how to make full use of technology and data. For example, social media is something farmers need to engage with. We already get 90 per cent of enquiries through Facebook alone.


“By covering subjects such as personal development, commercial awareness and risk management the programme is about equipping farmers for the future and it will provide an excellent networking opportunities. With delegates from many sectors I am sure there will be a great deal of idea sharing and problem solving.”



Developed by the Institute of Agricultural Management, the Farm Management Skills Programme is a new initiative to exploit the opportunities and meet the challenges that will be faced as the industry evolves and is targeted at farmers and farm mangers looking to move their businesses forward.


“The UK farming industry is going to undergo significant changes as a result of globalisation, developing consumer preferences and the environment among other influences,” says Victoria Bywater, director of the Institute of Agricultural Management. “Businesses who succeed moving forward will have to acquire new skills and broaden their horizons.


The modular programme sets out to provide a structured series of modules which will help farmers and farm managers become better business managers.”


“The focus is strongly on personal and business skills because farm businesses will need to operate in different ways as the industry develops. Data and technologies will open doors to new ways of growing crops and rearing animals while the way producers interact with their markets will create new opportunities.


People management will also become increasing important as successful businesses build and maintain skilled teams. Delegates following the programme can expect to be challenged and to become better equipped to run a successful business.”


Click here for more information on the Institute of Agricultural Management.


Dan Carter, North Wales

Dan Carter, North Wales

Twenty-six year old Dan Carter enrolled into the Dairy Management Academy 12 months ago looking to build on his skills and experience to help develop his career


His uncle runs a 100-cow dairy farm in North Wales but Dan knew he would have to look for work elsewhere when he completed his National Diploma in Agriculture at Reaseheath College.


Having worked on a number of farms with different systems to broaden his experience, he has moved to his current position as herd manager for a 440-cow milking herd housed all year round with 900 head including dry cows and youngstock.


Promar consultant Andrew Hawkins recommended him to consider applying to the Dairy Management Academy as a way to broaden his skills and he did so with the full support of his employer, Richard Knowles.


“The DMA has the modules to extend my knowledge and this will be important as I develop my career, both here and if I move onto another position in time,” Dan explains. “The combination of practical skill and management modules means I am building my business knowledge.


“I have come back from each of the four modules I have attended so far with new ideas I would like to implement with the herd here. The combination of classroom sessions and practical exercises on farm help make sure we understand the practicalities of the subjects covered and make the learning easier.


“There are nine of us on the course and we are regularly in touch between the modules by WhatsApp in particular sharing experiences and banter.


“With five more modules to go including the trip to Poland I am confident there is plenty more to learn and I will finish the programme with a better skill set to help me progress my career.”

Dairy Management Academy

The Dairy Management Academy is combines training courses with an on-farm placement over two years.


Run by Promar, LKL Services and Genus, individuals progress through the programme and are mentored while working full time.


“Individuals progress through a two year programme of training and mentoring while working full time,” comments Promar consultant Andy Taylor.


“By carefully matching candidates with forward-thinking farms, we strive to create long-term working relationships and exceptional standards of training,” explains Promar consultant Andy Taylor.


There is no age limit for entry to the academy but ideally applicants will combine an agricultural qualification with two to three years on farm experience.


“Based around quarterly two-day courses combining classroom and practical training, the aim is to equip individuals with greater practical skills that can then be applied of the farm.”


“In addition to becoming better stock managers they will be able to produce a financial justification for change, understanding the cost implications and potential benefits.”


The course also includes an overseas study trip to get an alternative perspective on large herd management and this year the group will travel to Poland.


“The focus is divided between the skills needed to manage a large, progressive herd and also the skills required to manage staff effectively,” adds Ian Lindsay from LKL.


“At the end of the two years candidates will be more closely integrated into the management team on the farm, more highly skilled and be more employable.”


Click here for more information on the Dairy Management Academy.

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