Scots farmers urged to employ more apprentices

Scottish farm businesses are being urged to engage more with the Modern Apprenticeships programme to attract and retain people in the food and farming industry.

The agricultural industry is experiencing a labour crisis, with sectors such as horticulture, dairy, pigs and poultry struggling to find workers.

The UK government is limiting the number of temporary foreign workers it will allow into this country to work on farms to 30,000 in 2022. And it has told the industry that it must find ways to attract more British workers into jobs and pay higher wages.

See also: How to recruit and get the best from your harvest students

On Thursday (10 February), NFU Scotland’s online conference heard that bespoke training is available to support farmers to take on modern apprentices into their businesses – and provide opportunities to upskill existing staff.

Gerry McBride is strategic relations manager at Skills Development Scotland, but also a member of Scotland Food & Drink Partnership Board and the NFUS Skills for Farming group. 

Mr McBride said the industry was taking steps to raise its profile, improve its image and build a “talent pipeline” of new recruits who want to work in farming. He urged farm businesses to engage in modern apprenticeships, which place novices with experienced workers so they can gain industry experience while working.

“The apprenticeships can be tailored to meet the individual needs of your farm, be it beef, sheep, dairy, or indeed, arable,” said Mr McBride.

“I want to encourage more farmers to get involved in this whole apprenticeship story. Farmers will get flexible, tailored training, very much bespoke to the needs of your farm and linking with colleges and other learning providers.

“It’s an opportunity to attract fresh talent and develop the farming workforce for the future – a great opportunity to bring new workers into the sector.”

However, he noted that apprenticeships were not just for new workers – they could be useful for workers of all ages and could help to upskill existing workers, and were a “great way to motivate staff, make them feel valued and increase morale”.

Scottish Apprenticeship Week will take place from 7-11 March this year, with the aim of highlighting the vital role apprenticeships play in supporting employers and the economy.

Six ways Scotland is working to attract young workers into farming

  1. Tarff Valley, based in Castle Douglas, has recently launched a “get into agriculture” programme to offer work experience for young people considering working in the industry.
  2. My World of Work has just refreshed its industry pages for the agriculture sector to offer an insight into what working in the sector is all about. School visits and careers events are also being hosted to encourage young people into the industry.
  3. Lantra Scotland has an alumni of “industry champions” – young people who are inspirational role models, pursuing careers in the land-based sector and who are keen to get along to skills or college events to talk about their journey into the industry.
  4. Lantra Scotland has also developed an employer’s toolkit which is focused on helping farmers to build their knowledge and experience of working with young people.
  5. In Scotland, there are 21 individual Developing the Young Workforce groups who want to work with local businesses and link into skills and discuss opportunities in the sector.
  6. A Skills for Farming Group has been formed, with support from Skills Development Scotland, to support employers in making informed decisions on different types of training as well as providing practical information on wages, responsibilities, funding and mentoring.