Farmers without formal qualifications could be excluded from accessing Government funding or even tenancies over the next two or three years, a prominent peer has warned.
Lord Don Curry, a former NFU Mutual chair, called on industry to do all it can to improve lifelong skills training for farmers to avoid the possibility of legislation being imposed which would make certain training requirements mandatory.
Addressing attendees of an NFU and AHDB event at Oxford Farming Conference on Tuesday (January 7), he said: “I can see a time when being able to access certain grants will require a given level of qualification.
“Why would Government not demand you can demonstrate you have got the qualities within your business to build and deliver the results which funding has been targeted to deliver?
“If I were a landlord in two or three years’ time, why would I not want to let my land to a tenant who can demonstrate they have got the qualifications necessary to manage that land professionally and compete in the marketplace?
“I hope the market will deliver a qualified workforce, but if we do not demonstrate we are on the case, we will find ourselves on the back end of legislation.”
Lord Curry’s comments came as the chair of the NFU’s Next Generation Forum, Simon Gadd, set out plans to create a professional body to encourage lifelong learning for all farmers and recognise qualifications.
The first stage of the AHDB-funded project is to set up a portal with four ‘areas’.
The first area, careers and recruitment, will ensure careers advice for children aged 16 and over is accurate, as well as offering suggested career paths in the industry.
A HR-style facility for employees and employers will be available in the second area, employment support, where people can get advice about training staff and working in agriculture.
In the learning and training area, professional development will be formally recorded, and a final ‘my space’ section will be tailored to individual users, allowing them to show employers how qualified they are.
Mr Gadd said: “It is important the industry is able to invest in people, to retain and train to get the best motivated staff.
“To do this, we aim to create a single point of access for careers advice, training opportunities and employee and employer support for existing farmers and new entrants.
“In turn, we believe the industry will be a more productive and desirable place to work, attracting and retaining a more skilled, confident workforce.”