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Farming needs to tackle public perception to attract young workers

Conservative MP Derek Thomas said the industry needed to move away from the image of Tolkien’s Farmer Giles


Alex   Black

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Farming needs to tackle its public perception to attract young workers

Farming needs to tackle the image of ‘Farmer Giles’ to attract new entrants into the sector as it faces the challenge of an aging workforce.

 

During a debate at Westminster on Wednesday (April 26), Conservative MP Derek Thomas said the industry needed to collaborate with schools to encourage young people into the sector.

 

Mr Thomas said young people believed farming careers were ‘low skilled and low paid’.


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Barriers to careers in food and farming

64%

non-competitiveness of salaries

55%

lack of job opportunities

55%

due to not owning a family farm

 

Defra Farm Business Survey 2013-14

“Other considerations include the rural location of farming and fishing businesses and the cost of rural housing,” he said.

 

Rural backgrounds

 

“Also, many young learners consider that it is a career only for those from a rural background. As a result of those challenges, fewer and fewer individuals are interested in pursuing a career in the sector.”

 

He added he was concerned not enough was being done in schools and Departments to promote careers in the sector and called for better links to be made between STEM subjects and their applications in farming.

 

“A greater understanding of the range of opportunities in the sector would help to dispel the myth that farming is low-paid and low-skilled,” he said.

 

Farming minister George Eustance said food, farming and fisheries provided ‘fantastic opportunities’ for young people.

 

“To secure the skilled workforce that the food, farming and fisheries sector needs for the future, Government and industry must work in partnership to prioritise training and skills,” he said.

 

“It is crucial that there are clear entry routes into the sector to help young people embark on their careers, and that employers invest in recruiting, training and developing their staff.”

 

Skills

 

He said the Government had introduced policies on skills, including the post-16 skills plan which would reform technical education and introduce T-levels.

 

“These will include agriculture, environmental and animal care; engineering and manufacturing, which will include food manufacturing; and catering and hospitality,” he said.

 

“T-levels will provide technical education to equip students for skilled occupations, creating clear routes into the sector.”

 

He added the apprenticeship levy had provided a new incentive for employers to invest in training.

 

“Many employers in the sector are rising to the challenge, and the number of apprenticeship starts in agriculture, horticulture and food manufacturing increased by more than 20 per cent in 2015-16 compared with the previous year.”

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