Ways to make yourself more employable in agriculture

Talk to agricultural recruitment experts and they will tell you that the people who have the most successful careers are those who invest time and effort in their own personal development.

These are the people who view training and development opportunities as a priority, because they are keen to learn about best practice in farming or keep up-to-date with the latest thinking on technical and business management ideas. 

They embrace the concept of lifelong learning because they see it as way of making themselves better at their current job and more employable in the future.

See also: Agricultural ancillary careers – varied, exciting and satisfying

The concept of Continuing Professional Development (CPD) is relatively new in agriculture, despite schemes such as Basis (see below) – which include an annual CPD requirement – having existed since 1978.

However, over the past decade, the agricultural industry has introduced a number of new schemes to help people upskill and bring about greater professionalism within the sector.

The following is a selection of the schemes on offer:

Dairy Pro scheme

The Dairy Pro scheme was launched in September 2012 and is billed as dairy farming’s one-stop-shop for training and development.

The aim of the scheme is to give a formal recognition to the skills that farmers and farmworkers already have and a framework that encourages them to keep learning.

Members of the scheme are offered points for a range of activities, from attending events, through to completing online training courses or reading certain journals.

They record these points online as part of a record of all development activities.

Participants who collect 20 points/year get “Dairy Pro Endorsed” status.

Some employers are now actively seeking to recruit people who have endorsed status and jobseekers are increasingly using their online record as evidence of their competence by attaching a copy to their CV.

The Dairy Pro website has details of hundreds of training courses, farm walks and events for which points are available.

Topics covered range from technical advice about foot-trimming, digital dermatitis, DIY artificial insemination and soil health, through to business management training on how to be more entrepreneurial or manage the succession of a tenanted dairy farm.

The cost of joining Dairy Pro is £20/year plus VAT.

Professional Agriculturalist scheme

Professional Agriculturalist (P Agric) status is awarded by the Institute of Agricultural Management (IAgM) –  a body that exists to promote high standards in the business of agricultural management.

The P Agric scheme was launched in 2014 as a forerunner to creating “chartered” status for rural professionals, such as farm managers and consultants.

The idea is to formally recognise those working in the sector, and put farming on a par with other professions such as forestry, engineering, accountancy and surveying, which already have chartered status.

P Agric status is only given to IAgM members who pass a formal interview with trained assessors.

The panel’s role is to make sure that applicants show the right level of skills to meet the criteria set down for the award.

Once accepted on to the scheme, members must submit an annual CPD record to prove they are taking part in lifelong learning.

To date, about 110 members have been accepted.

The IAgM says the scheme helps to reassure consumers and others of high standards of agricultural practice and ensure that transactions are conducted in a competent, professional and ethical manner.

It is also a way to offer new entrants a more discernible career structure.

At least one business is known to have decided to only employ people with P Agric status.

The cost of P Agric membership is £125, compared to the normal IAgM membership fee of £80.

AgriFood Advanced Training Partnership (ATP)

The AgriFood Advanced Training Partnership (ATP) offers people who work in farming, food processing, manufacturing and retail the opportunity to study at leading universities on a part-time and part-funded basis.

Attending a course gives delegates the opportunity to gain new knowledge and skills from some of the leading UK providers of plant science, agriculture, soil science, food technology and science and business skills, while still working.

Training is delivered by four university and research institute partners: the University of Nottingham, Harper Adams University, Cranfield University and Rothamsted Research.

Courses can range from one-day workshops to a programme of activities involving e-learning modules and week-long blocks of lectures and practicals.

Some people take part for CPD development purposes (so no assessment is involved), while others sign up for one of three postgraduate-level programmes to gain a qualification while they work.

Training usually costs within the region of £300/day or £1,200-£1,500/week.

There have been 50% bursaries available, but these are due to finish at the end of 2016.

However, there may be some funding available for smaller businesses after that date if they contact AgriFood ATP.

Professional Manager Development Scheme

The Professional Manager Development Scheme (PMDS) was launched in 2013 by levy body AHDB and is designed to develop the skills and abilities of managers working in the farming industry.

The course, which is limited to 12 places each year, lasts for 16 months, with 10 sessions held during that period.

Each of the 10 sessions consists of an evening discussion with external speakers, followed by a day of management training.

It aims to guide people through issues such as leading and motivating a team, planning and managing change, working efficiently, influencing people and managing performance.

According to AHDB, previous delegates on the PMDS have seen wide-ranging benefits from attending, including improved production efficiency, which has reduced the costs of production, as well as better communication between staff.

Taking part also leads to a formal qualification – the Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM) Certificate in First Line Management.

The cost is £850 plus VAT for levy payers and £3750 plus VAT for non-levy payers.

Farm Management Development Scheme

The Farm Management Development scheme (FMDS) was established in 2015 and is a practical programme aimed at people who aspire to a management role, including those who are taking on the family business or currently in an assistant manager role.

It is delivered by Bishop Burton College, but was developed with help from the Royal Agricultural University and a number of leading farmers.

The course, which runs for two separate residential weeks, covers topics such as business evaluation, marketing, business planning, costs of production, people management, leadership and communication.

It is limited to 12 places.

The cost of the FMDS course is £3,800, but candidates get a 50% bursary from the Prince’s Countryside Fund, taking the cost for individuals down to £1,900.

Basis/Facts certificate

A Basis qualification is perhaps the best known of all the professional development schemes operating in farming.

Anyone advising on or selling pesticides in the UK needs to hold a Basis Certificate in Crop Protection, so it is effectively a “licence to operate”.

Once qualified, holders also need to ensure they meet an annual CPD requirement to remain on the Basis Professional Register.

The Basis course covers subjects such as integrated crop management, recognition and causes of crops disorders, biology and control of weeds, pests and diseases, and the safe handling and use of the chemicals and biological agents used for crop protection.

The course is delivered through blocks of intensive training and students are expected to carry out practical work in between, plus deliver a 3,000-5,000 word project on a current crop protection situation, where the candidate must formulate a pro

posed solution within current environmental and legislative requirements. At the end of the training, there is also an identification test and written and verbal examinations.

Facts certification is not a requirement for anyone involved in selling fertilisers or other plant nutrient products, but it is regarded as best practice to be certified.

The programme gives candidates an understanding of the role of fertilisers in food production so they can make recommendations that are agronomically, economically and environmentally sound.

Courses typically run for four to six days and candidates must also complete an examination and interview.

Facts training costs £600-800, plus an examination fee of £230. Basis training costs about £1,100-£1,600, depending on training provider, plus an extra examination fee of £390.