Skills and training

Whatever the outcome of Brexit, upskilling yourself or your staff can only be beneficial to the bottom line of your business. There are a range of training courses, mentoring opportunities and webinars available from many different sources but it is not always easy to identify the most appropriate training opportunity, at the right time and in the right location for you or your staff. This article considers how you can identify the right skills and course for you and your staff whatever the future holds.

Agriculture as a sector has one of the lowest expenditures on skills development and training when compared to other sectors. This is despite it being proven that increasing the skills and expertise of those working in your business will contribute to improving overall productivity. Different types of training can be loosely grouped under three main themes:

·     Environmental

·     Technical

·     Business

The CLA’s recent Redefining Farming report outlined the areas in which CLA members or their employees had taken training in. Environmental training, whether formal or informal, was the most neglected of the areas of training which, considering the future of policy direction outlined in the Agriculture Bill, may have to change. While formal training is important the value of less informal training should not be overlooked. Attending discussion groups and joining webinars can offer excellent opportunities to improve your knowledge or skills in a particular area.

Working in agriculture can be extremely demanding from a working hours perspective and the research the CLA commissioned in theRedefining Farming report reflected this with a lack of time cited as one of the key barriers to participating in training or skills development.

The other main barrier was the cost, both from the working time spent away from the farm travelling and attending the course and in paying course fees. With adequate planning the issue of time being a barrier could be overcome as long as there is flexibility from the course provider to recognise the seasonality of farm work and the time constraints faced by many farm businesses.

A good place to start could be through carrying out a skills audit of yourself and your staff to identify the breadth of skills that might you have currently and what you made need in the future these skills could include – business, marketing, negotiation, change management, project management or technical. 

Sources of training and funding can vary greatly by country and region. In Wales the main forum for options for training courses is Farming Connect. This is a Rural Development funded scheme enabling farmers to select and decide from a set of approved, validated courses. In England there is no such platform and it is incumbent on individual business owners to identify the most appropriate course for themselves or their staff.

Demanding the right sort of training and embracing training for owners and managers as well as employees is likely to be more important in the future of farming as the industry moves to a more high-tech, market focused environment. This is not just to ensure that businesses are run to the highest standards, but to ensure that the industry can attract high quality workers and managers for the future. Farming needs to be recognised as a leading industry in skills, training and continuous professional development to realise any opportunities and address any challenges of the future.

Sources of training 

In the first instance members looking for training opportunities should contact their local CLA office who will have knowledge of local farmer networks, further education colleges and private Lantra providers. Local agricultural colleges may have provision for courses in your area and local enterprise partnership (LEP)-led growth hubs offer many business coaching opportunities in addition to marketing and wider general business skills.

At a national scale the Worshipful Company of Farmers runs the Advanced Farm Management course at RAU and the Rural Leadership course at Dartington in Devon.

Short technical training opportunities are also available with courses covering ATV and chainsaw use, for example.

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