Major food industry coalition aims to bridge farming skills gap
PUBLISHED: 11:16 19 September 2018 | UPDATED: 11:16 19 September 2018
A food and farming industry coalition has united to kick-start a new strategy for the UK’s agricultural workforce – aiming to bridge a looming skills gap and make the sector “fit for the future”.
Skills development has been recognised as a key factor in the country’s agricultural productivity gap to other nations, with research suggesting less than 35pc of UK farmers have any formal management training.
So organisations including the National Farmers Union (NFU) and Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) have joined forces with agricultural colleges and major food producers, manufacturers and retailers to inspire a “transformation” in skills, careers, recruitment, qualifications and professional development.
Helen Woolley, currently director general of the Country Land and Business Association (CLA) has been appointed as the chair of the new skills leadership group, which aims to deliver a new agriculture and horticulture skills plan, focusing on three core work streams:
• Creating a professional framework with new qualifications relevant to the needs of employers in the future.
• Development of clear career paths and fresh approaches to recruitment.
• Mechanisms to encourage continuing professional development and business support.
“This is the first step,” she said: “The skills gap has not appeared overnight, it has developed over decades, which is why we need to address the downturn now more than ever to deliver Brexit with a highly skilled and professional workforce.”
The leadership group also includes Dr David Llewellyn, vice chancellor of Harper Adams University, who will lead the professional framework and education working group, and John Shropshire, of Fenland growers G’s Fresh, who will chair the continued professional development and business support group.
Defra secretary Michael Gove said: “I am glad to see industry taking the initiative to develop this much-needed skills strategy for the farming sector. This is especially relevant as we look ahead to life outside the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy and the opportunity to make industry more competitive and profitable.
“I look forward to the group developing lasting solutions that work for the agriculture and horticulture industry, and equip the workforce for the future of farming.”
During the next few months, the Skills Leadership Group wants to hear from individuals and organisations who want to join this coalition and add their expertise to its work. Anyone interested in getting involved should contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
THE SKILLS SENIOR LEADERSHIP GROUP
Helen Woolley – Country Land & Business Association
Lord Donald Curry of Kirkeharle CBE
Richard Longthorp OBE – AgriSkills Forum
Dr David Llewellyn – Harper Adams University
Simon Gadd – National Farmers’ Union
Oliver Lee – Farmer
Jane King – AHDB
Louisa Bagshaw – Defra
Jonathan Back - Defra
Janet Swadling – Former SRUC chief executive, AHDB board member
John Shropshire OBE – chairman, G’s Fresh
Beverly Dixon – group HR director, G’s Fresh
Guy Smith – NFU deputy president
Matthew Naylor – managing director, Naylor Flowers
Tess Howe – AHDB
Invited universities and colleges