How will future unfold for two NDA students?
This week farmers weekly starts a new series of articles – a series designed to chart the careers of two agricultural students through their college days and beyond. Andy Collings reports
DO AGRICULTURAL colleges serve the industry well? Are students being trained to the right level in the right subjects? And, at the end of the course, are there the jobs available for them to utilise their new-found skills?
These are questions we hope to answer in the months and perhaps years to come as we follow the progress of two students currently attending Brooksby College in Leicestershire.
Philip Knight and Ted Duffin started their BTEC National Diploma in Agriculture (NDA) course last September. With two more terms to complete this year, the summer will herald the start of 15 months on the farm to improve practical skills before returning for a final year in 1998.
Both are 18 years of age and both have an intense interest in agricultural matters. And, as one would expect and hope, both have ambitions to stamp their mark on the industry once their courses have been completed.
So, where have these two potential ambassadors stemmed from? Ted Duffin is the product of a family owned farm at Mountsorrel, about eight miles from Brooksby College, while Philip Knight states his connection with farming as being "historical".
Brooksby College, like most other colleges, prefers its students to have had some practical experience before commencing a course. The reason is threefold: It provides students with a basic understanding of farming operations, it is a time when they can decide whether a farming career is what they actually want, and it also means they are older and better prepared for student life than if they had come straight from school.
Philip opted to spend his pre-college days on a 360ha (900-acre) mixed farm, where the dairy herd totalled some 300 head, and upwards of 500 heifers were kept. Grass conservation was clearly a key issue, as was the growing and harvesting of some 70ha (180 acres) of forage maize and a wheat area of 50ha (120 acres). Philip joined forces with the resident farm staff to sample most operations.
"I was involved in everything," he says. "Calves, cows, milking, tractors, cultivations and harvesting."
Ted, on the other hand, was entrenched on his familys 100ha (250-acre) farm where 200 beef cattle reside. An arable enterprise comprising some 32ha (80 acres) of wheat and barley, plus a spell with a local contractor helped to ensure that Teds pre-college period was fully occupied.
It is worth recording at this juncture the ambitions of Ted and Philip. Ted intends to return to his familys farm and, in partnership with his elder brother, take over the reigns from his father.
Investment in machinery
"I would hope that we can acquire some more land so we can justify a greater investment in machinery," he says. "We are between the devil and the deep blue sea at the moment – too large to employ contractors for all operations, but too small to warrant our own combine harvester or a large forager."
Philip has aspirations to become a farm manager on a large mixed farm running a dairy herd with a reasonable acreage of arable crops.
"I know it wont happen overnight, but I would hope that following the completion of my course I can embark on a career structure which will enable me to achieve my goal," he says.
And, finally for now, hows the course going so far?
"Its going well," insists Ted. "Theres a fair mix of practical and classroom activities. Early days yet, but I feel pretty confident."
Philip echoes this view. "Were getting a good grounding in all farming aspects," he says.
So, the scene is set. How will our students progress? Where will they be in years to come? We look forward to reporting as it happens.
Brooksby College NDA students Philip Knight (left) and Ted Duffin.
NDA course details
Farm machinery, animal science, crop science, animal husbandry, farm building and estate maintenance, book-keeping.
College supervised practical farm work.
Machinery management, financial management, labour management, agricultural policy, advanced animal production, advanced crop production.