East Anglia: Land skills shortage crisis looms

David Lawrence, Principal of the New Easton and Otley College

EADT 22.9.12
David Lawrence, Principal of the New Easton and Otley College EADT 22.9.12

Saturday, April 12, 2014
6:00 AM

The UK faces significant staff and skills shortages in the land-based sector over the next decade, according to a report.

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Lantra, the UK’s Sector Skills Council for land based and environmental industries, says the sector will need 600,000 new recruits by 2020 to avoid a skills shortage crisis.

The report, launched earlier this month at an event hosted by Baroness Young of Old Scone, was welcomed by Easton and Otley College principal David Lawrence who said his organisation was trying to address the issues it raised and was working in partnership with organisations such as Suffolk Agricultural Association.

Land-based and environmental industries currently employ around 1.3million people in 230,000 businesses across the UK, says Lantra.

An ageing workforce and growth in some industries means increased employment opportunities across the sector, with around 595,000 jobs forecast between now and 2020.

In order to fil this gap, the industry will need to attract more young people.

The report highlights the importance of professionalism and professional development, supporting key national strategies including the UK Strategy for Agricultural Technologies, the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs’ (DEFRA) Future of Farming Review and the implementation of the Farming Regulation Taskforce recommendations.

Lantra chair Valerie Owen said: “It is ever more important that employers continue to work in partnership with Lantra to ensure the business and training needs of the sector can be met.

“This report outlines key issues for such businesses nationally, and how we plan to support employers tackling these challenges through training and qualifications, skills recording tools and information portals.”

Easton and Otley College principal David Lawrence said: “We strongly agree with many of the findings in the Lantra report.

“Our experience on the ground in terms of employers seeking potential employees strongly endorses Lantra’s findings. The age profile issue is well understood but it is not the same in all areas of what is a broad set of land-based industries. In certain sectors, for example, in the outdoor pig sector, the age profile is probably a little younger than the national picture. However, recruitment demand is still very strong.

“In what we see at a practical level, good technical understanding, an ability to work with advanced technology and an ability to make thoughtful decisions are key requirements.”

The college’s strategy was aimed at addressing these issues, and it had set up “highly productive” partnerships with local and regional industries to support this, he said.

“The merger of the two colleges in 2012 was central to our response. It was the only way we could afford to meet the challenges of the technical skills required, investment in technology that is necessary and the effort required in providing strong careers advice to schools and young people.”

The college’s main open days are Sunday, May 11, at Otley Campus and Sunday, June 1, at Easton campus.

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