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Farming joins forces to attract new entrants

April 16, 2013 by  
Filed under News & Business

Hundreds of jobs could be created by an industry-led apprenticeship programme to boost training opportunities in food and farming and help young people develop careers in agriculture.

Launched last month, the £1.4m apprenticeship scheme brings together farming organisations, colleges and local authorities to Educate, Develop, Grow and Employ (EDGE) young people in agriculture across the east of England.

It aims to encourage employers across Norfolk and Suffolk to take on apprentices and equip them with the practical, managerial and technical skills required to develop successful careers in farming and food production.

The programme is industry-led and is a collaborative venture between agricultural purchasing groups Anglia Farmers and AtlasFram Group, in conjunction with Easton and Otley College, New Anglia LEP, Norfolk County Council and Suffolk County Council.

The application for funding was made in autumn 2012 in response to concerns from farmers about the difficulties finding young people with suitable skills to replace staff who were retiring, leading to an increasingly ageing workforce.

EDGE Apprenticeships in Food and Farming will offer training across a wide range of careers, both on-farm and in associated agri-science and agri-business roles. Classroom-based training for apprentices will be provided by Easton and Otley College and other appropriate training bodies.

Anglia Farmers chief executive Clarke Willis, Chief Executive Anglia Farmers, said: “The skills and age gaps in many agricultural businesses are widening, so we need to encourage more young people into food and farming to secure the future of the sector as it continues to grow.”

AtlasFram Group chief executive Richard Anscombe said opportunities in agriculture would only increase amid rising demand for food to feed a growing world population. “There is a demand for well trained, skilled people which is where the EDGE project can make a real difference.”

Trying to recruit young people into farming is not a new problem, but it is an issue that project partners are committed to tackling head on, said Martyn Davey, director of Land-based Studies at Easton and Otley College.

“It’s important that we work closely with our partners in industry to encourage learners to seriously consider a career in farming and this apprenticeship programme can only help our long-term mission of serving the needs of the agricultural industry across the eastern region and beyond.”

The scheme has received the backing of Suffolk and Norfolk county councils. They believe a thriving agricultural and food sector is vital to the success of the region’s economy and are keen that more youngsters consider a career in the industry.

Norfolk county councillor Ann Steward: “Young people are unaware of the tremendous range of career opportunities in farming and this initiative will lead the way in growing that talent through the proven apprenticeship pathway.”

Agriculture is a major employer in the East of England, with 50,000 people directly employed within farming. Many more jobs are supported by the industry but finding the farmers of tomorrow remains a huge challenge.

Nicola Currie, CLA Eastern Regional Director, said: “Agriculture is a strong industry with a bright future, making it a great career choice. EDGE is just what is needed to grow the skills in the young people who will sustain it through this time of innovation and technological development.”

NFU regional director, Pamela Forbes, said the union would be giving the initiative its full support. “Part of the battle is convincing young people, their parents and teachers that farming is a high-tech and progressive industry that offers real job prospects and career progression.”

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