Livestock ring at Leek Auctions©FLPA/Rex

A shortage of young auctioneers entering the farming industry has prompted one of the country’s best known auction centres to launch a recruitment drive with a difference.

Carlisle-based Harrison & Hetherington says an infusion of new recruits to rostrum selling is essential if auctioneering is to remain a “profitable, sustainable and progressive sector of farming business.”

But as part of the company’s scheme to encourage more young people to consider auctioneering as a career they are willing to take on trainees from the age of 16.

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New recruits will spend several years gaining experience in all areas of the auctioneering business before their training focuses on rostrum duties.

David Pritchard, operations director at Harrison & Hetherington, said it was important for the farming industry to secure the next generation of auctioneers.

“There is something of an age gap in the auctioneering profession. Across the UK there’s a shortage of experienced auctioneers,” said Mr Pritchard.

Harrison & Hetherington – which employs 14 auctioneers selling at seven markets – has already launched its recruitment drive but securing a job as the first rung on the auctioneering ladder with the company is likely to be about more than just academic qualifications.

“A knowledge of farming is a big asset but we are looking for new recruits with an outgoing personality and good people skills,” said Mr Pritchard.

“We want to provide them with a wide experience of all aspects of the business so becoming a member of the yard staff at the outset gives invaluable experience in exactly how the practical side of a livestock market functions.

“And there must be time spent on the office side of the business to learn the many administrative skills associated with running an auctioneering company before moving on to mastering the job of becoming an auctioneer.”

Alongside the Harrison & Hetherington training scheme, successful candidates are encouraged to complete the part-time Livestock Market Operations and Management course at Harper Adams University College.

The course is designed specifically for aspiring auctioneers and is a route to membership of the Livestock Auctioneers Association (LAA) and the Institute of Auctioneers and Appraisers of Scotland (AAS).

David Fearon, 20, from Workington, Cumbria, is now the company’s youngest auctioneer following a four-year stint, which he started as a member of the yard staff.

“Auctioneering is a great job but it’s important to learn as much about the entire business that actually makes an auction mart operate,” he said.

“The years I spent working in other parts of the company gave me a really good foundation.”