Out-of-date opinions on farming hamper recruitment, says Sainsbury’s study

Alex Parkinson, apprentice at Taylorgrown in Norfolk

Alex Parkinson, apprentice at Taylorgrown in Norfolk - Credit: GRAHAM FLACK 07747 015131

Efforts to cultivate a new generation of workers for the farming industry are being stymied by 'outdated misconceptions', research has found.

Careers in agriculture have long been dogged by the traditional view that they consist of low skilled, low paid work suited to people with few academic qualifications.

And this has been compounded by a study conducted by YouGov and Sainsbury's revealing that 82pc of young adults in the East of England would not consider a career in the industry because of the negative stereotypes.

However, the report showed that 37pc of young people in the east chose criteria which matched modern day careers in farming when asked about their ideal job. These included, access to latest technology (28pc), flexible working hours (56pc) and variety in their day to day work.

The findings come as Sainsbury's looks to attract more young people into the industry with the launch of an apprenticeship scheme for horticulture and agriculture. The sector needs to attract 60,000 new employees by 2020 to replace retiring farmers.

Elizabeth Truss, environment secretary and MP for South West Norfolk, said: 'Food and farming is vital to Britain's future, already contributing £100bn a year to the economy. The people who give this industry its extraordinary energy are some of the most innovative in the world and we want more young people to see food and farming as an attractive career.

'Over the next few years we will open up more opportunities for young people by trebling the number of apprenticeships across the sector.

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'We hope to see more leading businesses, like Sainsbury's, providing our next generation of farmers with the skills, confidence and opportunities to grow our industry.'

More than 1,000 16- to 24-year-olds were questioned as part of the research, which found that just under a third of young people were put off pursuing a career in agricultural because they assume they need a family connection to get a job. Despite this, 38pc said they would like to find out more about farming careers.

Sainsbury's – which plans to launch its scheme this month with Staffline– said the apprenticeships will give young people aged 16 and above the chance to work with progressive food suppliers, many of which use innovative technologies.

Robert Honeysett, Sainsbury's horticultural manager, said: 'Our research reveals there's a significant gap between what young people think of farming, and some of the jobs that are available today.

'We're passionate in playing our part to support the future of British farming, and help attract young people into the industry.

'We hope our apprenticeship programme will help show that there are a number of alternative routes into farming.'

Have you got a business story? Email ben.woods@archant.co.uk