The Co-operative Farms is to extend its apprenticeship scheme recruiting 45 young people over the next three years to train across its business.

The apprentices – like Rob Hinder (pictured above) – will spend time on one of 14 farms owned or managed by the business, and will also attend Reaseheath College in Cheshire to learn new skills, such as environment management, mechanical engineering and agronomy.

Richard Quinn, head of The Co-operative Farms, said: “The Co-operative is committed to helping young people get into work and this scheme will help us find the next generation of farmers, who are as passionate about home-grown British produce as we are, to help plug a skills gap in the industry.

“The Co-operative Farms has an experienced workforce and we want them to pass on their valuable knowledge to our apprentices, who will also learn new skills and use the latest technology and equipment.”

Mr Quinn said the apprentices would be given a range of opportunities across the company’s arable and fruit farms, including being taught about managing the land and countryside in a responsible way.

Recruitment will start in October with the aim of filling all places by March 2014.

Successful applicants will join the scheme for up to four years, where they will receive hands-on experience, whilst also studying for qualifications up to NVQ Level 4 in Farming.

Lee Osborne, NFU skills policy adviser, said: “As the industry becomes ever more diverse and technologically driven, many of the jobs available are for skilled workers.

“The places offered by The Co-operative Farms will present a chance for new entrants to learn new skills and develop to become farmers for the future. Attracting dynamic young people is essential if we are to have a thriving food and farming sector in the future.”

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