Scottish farmers are being urged to support pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship programmes to steer young people onto the industry's career path.
Scottish Apprenticeship Week, which started on Monday (1 March), shines a spotlight on how apprenticeships help businesses, individuals and the economy.
For the farming industry, initiatives such as LANTRA’s Modern Apprenticeship programme and the Land Based Pre-Apprenticeship Pilot programme gives young people the chance to work on farms.
Andrew Rodger, who runs a mixed farm in the Scottish Borders producing Scotch Beef PGI and Scotch Lamb PGI, has taken on two pre-apprentices so far.
“It’s really difficult to get staff and you’re always hearing that no one young wants to come into the industry," he said.
"But there are young people out there that do, they need a chance to develop and that can only happen if there are farms willing to take them.
"Having an apprentice makes you think about farming practices, especially why you do what you are doing, as you have to explain your reasoning, particularly if they’re from a non-farming background."
Mr Roger said it was 'extremely rewarding' to pass on farming knowledge to apprentices: "We had our early lambing in the first week of February," he recalled.
"I didn’t think our apprentice would be that interested, but he was really keen and it was nice to see him learning.”
Demonstrating the benefits of the industry operating in some of the world’s highest standards could help invigorate interest in farming as a career, Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) says.
Kate Rowell, chair of the red meat industry body, said that bringing in a young person onto the farm could help provide farmers with a fresh perspective.
“By training the next generation of farm workers, you’re benefiting the Scottish red meat industry as a whole, and if you enjoy working alongside a young person, then taking on a pre-apprentice or apprentice is absolutely for you.
“By welcoming a young person onto a Scotch Assured farm, they also get an understanding of the important role of Scotland’s whole chain assurance."
In 2019, the Land-Based Pre-Apprenticeship Pilot Programme (LBPAPP) was launched nationally, involving three Machinery Rings (Ringlink Scotland, Tarff Valley Services and Borders Machinery Ring) covering the South West, North East and South East Scotland.
The programme is delivered with other partners including the Scottish Rural College (SRUC) and Borders College.
Recruitment for the 2021 Land-based Pre-Apprenticeship programme is underway, with a target of recruiting up to 60 pre-apprentices throughout Scotland.