East Anglia: Research shows farm owners’ concerns about attracting high calibre staff

Apprentices receiving training at Easton and Otley College

Apprentices receiving training at Easton and Otley College - Credit: Archant

New research carried out by an industry-leading apprenticeship scheme has shown that nearly three quarters of farm business owners are concerned about attracting high calibre staff for skilled roles.

The survey, carried out by EDGE Apprenticeships in Food & Farming, was completed by more than 40 farmers from across Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex and Cambridgeshire. The results showed that 55% of businesses do not provide any formal training, development or qualifications for young employees and only 13% currently use apprenticeships as a means of training staff.

74% of respondents in the online survey said they were either concerned or very concerned about getting enough good quality applicants for skilled and supervisory jobs – figures which serve to underline the apprenticeship scheme’s aim to increase the number of highly-qualified young people entering the industry.

The need for more young people to fill job vacancies was also expressed, with 63% of respondents saying that they planned to take on at least one young worker (under 21) in the next two years – with 10% of businesses planning to take on between four and eight under 21’s.

The survey results have re-iterated the main aims of the EDGE scheme – to encourage more young people into food and farming careers and raise the level of training which they receive.

EDGE Project Manager Richard Self said: “EDGE was set up following industry feedback about the need for more apprentices and a higher level of training and these results further underline the age and skills gaps which exist in many food and farming businesses.

“The results show that more than half of businesses do not offer any formal training for young staff, so we would certainly encourage any employers who currently employ young staff and want to offer them training to get in touch.”

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EDGE Apprenticeships in Food & Farming is industry-led and is a collaborative venture between agricultural purchasing groups Anglia Farmers (AF) and AtlasFram Group, in conjunction with Easton and Otley College, New Anglia LEP, Norfolk County Council and Suffolk County Council. It is supported by £1.4million of co-investment from the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES) Growth and Innovation Fund.

The project aims to recruit 440 new apprentices across the East of England by March 2015.

For more information about employing an apprentice, contact Lorraine Nuccoll on 07500 959 314 or email Lorraine.nuccoll@angliafarmers.co.uk.