Agriculture

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The Independent Online

There is a great need for more land lovers across the UK.

Despite the problems facing the agricultural industry, not least the aftermath of the Foot and Mouth epidemic and Bird Flu scare, there is presently a very strong demand for highly trained, educated and well motivated young people to enter the industry. Details of job vacancies can be found in specialist journals such as the Farmers' Weekly, which currently contains a wide range of career opportunities across the entire spectrum of agriculture.

It is important to realise that Agriculture is more than just farming. There are approximately 200 different career areas in agriculture and many are not involved in production agriculture (farming). Qualified students from Myerscough College, for example, are now working as Farm Managers, as Technical Representatives for Supply Companies, in Quality Control for supermarket chains and in many other roles. People qualified in agriculture are often welcomed by other industries because of their broad education, skills, training and experience.

Skills shortages

The current shortage of skilled farm staff is predicted to continue, with the skilled stockperson in particularly high demand. Employers have never been more aware of the value of a skilled, well educated work force. Currently there are more job opportunities than there are students completing courses to fill the vacancies. Similarly, the number of requests from employers offering a one-year paid work placement as part of the three-year National Diploma course is much greater than the number of students available.

Increasingly, attractive job packages are not limited to the UK: the US and New Zealand are also facing a shortage of skilled staff and are actively trawling the UK to entice qualified young agriculturalists into well-paid and responsible positions. Students often have the opportunity to travel as part of their course.

Personal qualities

Young people considering a career in agriculture will have an interest in and enthusiasm for:

  • Plants and animals
  • Working outdoors
  • New technologies and their applications
  • Taking responsibility and being part of a small team

Useful skills include:

  • An understanding of plant care, animal care and animal welfare
  • An appreciation of environmental management and sustainable development
  • The attainment of a variety of practical skills and knowledge
  • A flexible approach to challenges and an ability to adapt to change

Entry requirements

There are many different ways to enter a career in agriculture. If you have no formal qualifications, there are opportunities providing you can demonstrate an interest in and enthusiasm for working with plants, animals and machinery.

Alternatively, there are full- and part-time courses that combine practical training with classroom-based learning.

Further Education and Training

Foundation and Advanced Modern Apprenticeship

These are aimed at young people between the ages of 16 and 24 years of age. Funding is available through your local Learning and Skills Councils and is guaranteed for 16, 17 and 18 year-olds. For those young people above 18 years, funding is discretionary.

National/Scottish Vocational Qualification

These are available in Agriculture from levels 1 to 4. They are primarily aimed at new entrants to the industry and involve work-based training and education. Assessment is by a combination of portfolio-building and practical testing, not by formal examinations.

National Certificate in Agriculture and First Diploma in Agriculture

These are one-year, full-time courses, primarily aimed at new entrants to the industry. They can be a useful "stepping-stone" to further, more advanced study.

National Diploma in Agriculture

This is a qualification well respected by employers who wish to recruit tzo responsible positions. It is either two or three years in duration, with some colleges organising a second year work placement as part of the course.

Higher Education

HND (Higher National Diploma) and degree courses are available at a number of universities and colleges. The courses are mostly of three years duration and involve in-depth study to develop the skills of analysis and evaluation.

For further information

A very useful source of information about courses and the colleges/universities that offer them is "The Directory of Courses in Land-Based Industries," published by Farming Press Books (ISBN 0-85236-373-7).

For general information about opportunities in the land-based sector, visit the Lantra website at: www.lantra.co.uk

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