More farmers are being urged to take on apprentices to help their businesses and ensure the industry has enough skilled people for the future.

About 70 young people studying land-based courses are waiting for on-farm apprenticeship placements as part of the Edge Apprenticeship in Food and Farming project. Further places will also be needed ahead of the start of the new academic year.

“We need as many employers as possible to offer placements to ensure that the rural economy secures its workforce for the future,” said Nicola Currie, CLA regional director.

See also: Visit the Farmers Weekly careers page for other career stories

Edge was set up by the NFU, CLA, Anglia Farmers and Brown & Co more than 18 months ago to attract high-calibre young people into land-based careers.

“I have found having an apprentice in my business a very useful way of taking on and growing a keen and motivated employee – it has meant that we can train someone to fill the role we had vacant. A new apprentice has no pre-conceived methods of workplace mentality and will fit into an existing work environment.”
Fergus Howie, Wicks Manor Farm

To date, the scheme has matched about 280 young people and employers.

“So far the project has been very successful but we need farmers to step up now and give these young people the first steps towards great careers in agriculture,” said Anglia Farmers chief executive Clarke Willis.

“We know that apprentices can bring huge benefits to businesses and we would certainly encourage more employers to offer opportunities.”

Fergus Howie, partner at Wicks Manor Farm in Essex took on Jess Dale as an apprentice stockman last year through the Edge scheme.

“I have found having an apprentice in my business a very useful way of taking on and growing a keen and motivated employee – it has meant that we can train someone to fill the role we had vacant. A new apprentice has no pre-conceived methods of workplace mentality and will fit into an existing work environment,” said Mr Howie.

“Jess has gained much experience since she began with us and this is showing in her ability to take on responsibility. This has grown from an understanding and knowledge base that she has learnt during the last year as she has progressed from being an apprentice to becoming a professional stockman.

“I would recommend taking on an apprentice to other businesses – it is a very rewarding process.”

The Edge scheme offers interested employers free and non-committal visits to discuss what would suit their business and what is involved in taking on an apprentice.

Key information about taking on an Edge apprentice

  • The minimum amount you must pay a 16-18 year-old apprentice is £2.73/hour. For those aged 19 and over who are in the first year of their apprenticeship, the minimum wage is £5.13/hour. The minimum wage for someone over 21 is £6.50/ hour.
  • Funding of up to £1,500 is available for employers taking on an apprentice – see the National Careers Service website or call 0800 100 900.
  • Apprenticeships tend to last about 18 months, but can be shorter or longer.
  • Hours are flexible to fit in with an employer’s need and the college course, but standard working hours legislation applies.
  • Apprentices tend to be between 18 and 24 years old.
  • Apprentices will normally be studying agriculture at level two, three or four (equivalent to a foundation degree) with specialisms including crop production, livestock production, land-based engineering, agronomy, butchery and poultry, and animal health.
  • Employers looking for a specific skill can discuss this with the Edge team who may be able to add modules to courses taken by apprentices in order to cover this skill set.

To find out more about the Edge scheme, visit www.edgeapprenticeships.org or call 01603 881 979.