The urgent need to recruit young people into farming – and give them proper training – has been highlighted by a new report focusing on the West Midlands.

Nearly 8,000 new entrants to the land-based sector will be needed in the next six years in that area alone to replace those retiring or leaving, according to the document published by the Learning and Skills Council and Lantra.

Although net employment will fall by 20%, the challenge to identify suitable new recruits and equip them with the right skills will “be sharper than ever”, says the report.

It shows that 23% of agricultural workers currently have no qualifications – more than double the proportion of the regional workforce as a whole.

It does point out, however, that this is largely a “skills-based rather than a qualifications-based sector”, with training often not leading to formal qualifications despite it making the workforce more capable.

The report, Land Based and Environmental Sector Review, reveals that 45% of the workers are aged 50 or above, and predicts the profile in land-based businesses will become “notably older” over the next decade.

It urges agencies, employers and training providers to work closely with careers guidance organisations to better signpost career opportunities in agriculture and the countryside.

It also advocates the development of flexible qualifications for Level 2 (GCSE equivalent) and above that are responsive to new developments in the sector plus calls for more strategies to encourage recruitment from a wider range of demographic groups, including long-term migrant workers.

* Download the full report here.