The agricultural sector doesn’t just offer jobs on the farm, there are many roles all along the supply and input chain.
If you don’t hold a specific qualification in this area, this is no barrier to getting a job in agriculture. There are many skills that are transferable, such as good communication and people management.
We spoke to a production manager for a feed company to discover his route into the job.
Name Charlie Thompson
Job title Production manager at ABN Cupar
Company AB Agri
Sum up your job in a sentence or two
I’m responsible for ensuring the successful production of monogastric animal feed for ABN Cupar. This involves managing the 16-18 production staff here on site, as well as planning feed orders into a production plan that takes into account the mill capacity and press-line restrictions.
What sort of things does this involve day to day?
Every day brings different challenges. But my day is focused around production planning, managing the site teams, organising shift patterns, as well as working with the central raw material, quality and health and safety teams.
What do you most enjoy about your job?
I love seeing the site progress – not just managing projects that make the plant cleaner, safer and more efficient, but seeing people progress and develop their skills.
What’s the downside?
It is not 9 to 5. Like most jobs in agriculture, the mill doesn’t stop when you go home. Calls out of hours are infrequent, but you need to have your laptop and phone to hand.
What percentage of your job is office-based?
I would say 70-80%, depending on how much time you spend in the mill.
What skills and qualifications are essential to do the job?
I’ve got A-levels and a degree in geography, but in my opinion these are not essentials.
You need first and foremost to be a good communicator, a strong leader and able to deal with a range of different people from farmers to the finance team. Most importantly, a good sense of humour and a thick skin will go far.
A logical step-by-step approach to problem solving, a good eye for data analysis and an ability to assess a situation and make informed decisions quickly are also skills you need to develop in this role.
What experience did you have before starting?
I’m from a farming background and always worked part-time on the family farm in Yorkshire.
I started work grain sampling for Openfield when I was 17 as a summer job. Two summers later, I co-ordinated five samplers working around Yorkshire (with varying degrees of success), yet this gave me my first experience of managing people.
What other careers did you consider?
Grain trading and agricultural sales.
What tips/advice would you give to someone wanting a similar role?
People management is a hard skill – you can work with and manage people for years and you will still get surprises along the way.
Sometimes you’ll fall short and a situation will get out of hand, but if you reflect on how you could have handled it better and how you are viewed in the eyes of others, you will improve. For me, it is far more rewarding when you achieve something as a team than achieving something as an individual.
Where would you see yourself in five years’ time?
Hopefully responsible for a site of my own.
Give us an idea of the salary a new starter might expect
The starting salary for a graduate is between £20,000 and £24,000/year.
Finish this sentence: A career in agriculture…
…Will always be available for those tenacious and passionate enough to give it a go.