Farm leaders move to increase work experience opportunities

A lack of work experience opportunities a key barrier that young people face when considering a career in UK agriculture
A lack of work experience opportunities a key barrier that young people face when considering a career in UK agriculture

A new initiative seeks to encourage agriculture and horticulture businesses to increase work experience opportunities for people from outside the industry.

A lack of quality work experience opportunities is one of the barriers young people face when considering a career in the farming industry, especially when they are not from a farming background.

Industry groups such as the AHDB, the Institute for Agriculture and Horticulture (TIAH) and the NFU are working together to address this.

During next week's National Work Experience Week, their new social media campaign will raise farmers’ and growers’ awareness of providing work experience.

Further work will take place during this year to seek feedback from employers to identify the common barriers to offering work experience and develop materials to support more farmers and growers.

The groups' efforts are part of a wider cross industry action plan co-ordinated by TIAH, and supported through the cross industry working group, to attract more people into farming careers.

Richard Longthorp, a Yorkshire farmer and TIAH Board member, said the agriculture and horticulture industry needed to attract new talent.

He said: "Research shows that we must make closer connections with people from outside the industry by providing first-hand experience of the range of opportunities available.

"There are already great initiatives promoting careers but there is not only a gap when it comes to giving people the chance to really understand what these jobs involve, there is also more opportunity for the different organisations to work together."

He said there were valid reasons why farmers may be hesitant to offer work experience, such as having no time or staff to support someone, concerns about health and safety or worry about having someone inexperienced on farm.

"Offering work experience provides farmers an ideal opportunity to showcase our individual businesses and our industry," Mr Longthorp added.

"Working together as an industry we have a greater chance of breaking down barriers and supporting businesses to provide a quality experience for potential recruits.”

Gaynor Wellwood and her husband Kieran are dairy farmers in Saltby, Leicestershire who have a long-term commitment to offering work experience to agricultural students on their farm.

“We began to support work experience students on our farm because we wanted to inspire the next generation of farmers and vets," Ms Wellwood said.

"We have two students on the unit at any one time. We wanted to ensure that they understood the huge variety of skills and challenges on the farm from a working farmers perspective.

"Offering work experience has benefited the business because we have found that students may return during or after they have completed their studies, which eases recruitment in the long-term."