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Careers special: Hands-on experience benefits farming apprenticeship

Apprenticeships offer a host of benefits for all parties involved and is an attractive solution to earn and learn. Alex Black looks at two sectors offering the initiative.


Gaining hands-on experience and earning a wage whilst training can make an apprenticeship an attractive option for young people looking to get into agriculture or related industries.


And there are opportunities for people from all different backgrounds, with colleges seeing a variety of students from family farms and those with no links to the farming industry.


With young people required to remain in full-time education or training until they reach 18, an apprenticeship can offer a less academic route, giving apprentices valuable experience alongside training from a college.


Unlike a full-time course at college or university, the majority of the learning will be done on the job and apprentices earn a wage while training. The current minimum wage is £3.70 per hour for apprentices under the age of 19, and those aged 19 or over in their first year.


Apprentices are entitled to the minimum wage for their age if they are aged 19 or over and have
completed the first year of their apprenticeship.


Apprenticeships are fully funded for people up to the age of 19 and older applicants may be able to get funding from a college or grants available to specific industry or geographical areas.


Jo-Anne Bryan, standard and qualifications manager at Lantra, says: “Embarking on an apprenticeship means you can earn while learning in a way that best suits you – learning through hands-on experience on the job.”


Liz Percival, assessor at Reaseheath College, Cheshire, says they got ‘a good spread’ of students from different backgrounds.


She says: “It is quite a mix. We have got a majority of farmer’s sons or where grandad was a farmer.


“It is about a 60-40 split. One of the advantages is they already have a job and will have two or three years’ experience before they head out into the industry.”


Other benefits include mixing with other students to share ideas and trips to see different farms to the one students are based at.


“If we have dairy farmers, we try and take them to poultry or sheep farms,” she adds.


Businesses can also benefit from taking on an apprentice who has come straight out of school and can be trained according to the needs of the business, and people often remain with the business which trained them after they gain their qualifications.


“I have students that started five years ago still at the workplace,” she adds.


The majority remain in the agricultural industry, moving to better opportunities or different areas. Those who do leave the industry still benefit from a qualification.


Apprenticeships extend beyond the farmgate, with opportunities from packing to engineering.

JCB will bring 171 apprenticeships and graduates into the business in 2018, and actively looking for people from agricultural backgrounds.


Max Jeffery, JCB director of learning and development, said: “Our apprenticeship and graduate programmes are fundamental to JCB’s continued success in the global market.


“Young people with great skills are the future of the business. This is especially true in the agricultural part of our business.


“We actively seek young people with an agricultural background to join our family business, especially our apprenticeship schemes, as the mix of practical and theory while getting the job done is so well aligned with large parts of the agricultural sector.”

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In Your Field: Ellamae Gibson

In Your Field: Ellamae Gibson


WORKING with Williams racing and working on the factory floor is the highlight of apprentice Ellamae Gibson’s course at JCB.


Ellamae comes from a farming background and chose to take an apprenticeship when her friends were heading off to university.


But she feels her apprenticeship has been much more beneficial to her than if she continued to study full-time.


“I would say choose an apprenticeship,” she says.


“You are not getting into debt. You learn skills you can apply, you are learning on a factory shop floor.”


Ellamae is in the first year of an apprenticeship with JCB, with the ambition to be a service engineer.


She chose JCB because they were such a well-known company and she says she has always been a ‘hands-on’ learner.


“I just want to fix things. I have always enjoyed learning how things work and I get a good qualification out of it,” she adds.


The highlight of the apprenticeship has been the opportunity to work with Williams Racing and learning about Formula One engineering.


“I can bring that knowledge back to the company,” she says. “We have been on other day trips, they get you involved in everything.”


And there are a variety of people on the course.


“They come from farming backgrounds, people from busy cities or towns,” says Ellamae. “There is an age range from 16 up to 30 something.”


And 23 per cent of JCB apprentices going into the business in 2018 are female.


She adds: “It does not make a difference being a girl in engineering at all.”

In the field: Sam Potts and Sofy Ellison


SAM Potts always wanted to milk cows, with his grandad being a farmer.


The family farm was sold when he was just eight years old, but he started milking cows every day aged 14.


Following an apprenticeship with Reaseheath college, Sam is hoping he can work his way up to his own farm tenancy.


He says: “You cannot beat farming. I want to do it every day of my life.”


He is now a herdsman at a 200 cow autumn block grassland farm at Brookfields Farm in Siddington.


“I always got told you cannot learn farming in a classroom. Being hands-on is better for you, you get the experience,” he says.


“You need to get experience while you are young. It is much more desirable to employers. There is no point staying in college until you are 19 or 20.


“And the day a week at college is good for things that farmers will not teach, like biosecurity.”


Sharing ideas, knowledge and best practice with other students on his course is also a benefit and Sam has made friends for life.


He also met his partner, Sofy Ellison, at Reaseheath.


Coming from outside the farming industry, Sofy originally wanted to be a vet.


But, after ending up working at a beef farm, she completed an agricultural apprenticeship and now manages a 270-cow dairy herd at Marton Hall Farm, Macclesfield.


The chance to ‘earn while you learn’ has been important for both of them, with Sofy preferring it to going into college full-time.


She says: “Learning on the job has got to be the biggest benefit. Everyone understands you are just learning, it is being able to learn from your mistakes.”


And she now has her own apprentice, so can appreciate the value apprentices add to a business from the other end.


“I think it makes the manager learn more,” she adds.


Sofy has also encouraged her sister’s friend, who was uncertain over whether to do an apprenticeship, to give it a go.


“She loves it,” she says.

Name Level Equivalent education level Suitable for
Intermediate 2 GCSE School leavers who wish to pursue a career in agriculture
Advanced 3 A level Aimed at those who have some management responsibility on the farm
Higher 4,5,6 and 7 Foundation degree and above Aimed at people who are either already in a farm management position or those who will soon take on the management of a farm or enterprise
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