Otley/UEA: £1.5m towards subsidised skills training for farmers

Easton and Otley College will be providing training under the scheme

Easton and Otley College will be providing training under the scheme - Credit: Archant

FARMERS will be able to develop vital new skills in marketing and sustainable land management - thanks to a £1.5 million training programme led by the University of East Anglia.

The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) funding comes as part of a £20m government business training scheme, announced this week by Environment Secretary Owen Paterson.

The aim of the initiative is to bring the right skills and business knowledge to rural areas.

It is hoped that access to first-class training in land management, supply chain and benchmarking and marketing will help rural businesses take up new opportunities and compete on a global scale.

UEA will use its share of the funding to provide as many as 6,000 people working in the agriculture, horticulture and forestry sectors with access to subsidised training via its Centre for Contemporary Agriculture (CCA) LandSkills programme. Courses are delivered in conjunction with colleges including Easton and Otley College in East Anglia and Myerscough College near Preston.

The national CCA Landskills programme is delivered by key organisations in English agri-food training including colleges, consultants and the Royal Agricultural Society. Its aim is to deliver cutting-edge training to help rural businesses prosper in the 21st century.

UEA plant scientist and CCA chair Prof John Turner said: “This award from Defra is a wonderful opportunity for UEA to combine its knowledge and resources with those of training partners in CCA LandSkills, to develop and improve skills in the English agricultural food production workforce.

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“We will aim in particular to improve the competitiveness of the industry in an ever changing and increasingly challenging market.”

Mr Paterson said: “Having the right skills to run a business is crucial if budding entrepreneurs want to be successful. For too long the needs of rural business people have been overlooked. Those days are now over. Businesses in the remotest parts of the country will now have access to the best training so they can grow and help our country to compete even more in the global race.”

As well as focusing on the business side of rural industries, the CCA LandSkills programme will also raise awareness about environmental issues – to strike a sustainable balance between efficient production and looking after natural habitats, reducing the industry’s carbon footprint, and managing land responsibly for future generations.

Other partners include rural business consultants ADAS, the European Food and Farming Partnerships, Rural Renaissance and Kite Consulting, as well as marketing group Tastes of Anglia, rural chartered surveyors Smiths Gore, and the Royal Agricultural Society of England.

Mike Mack of Smiths Gore said: “This programme allows the farming sector to set the training agenda, empowering farmers to define their training needs and enabling them to be met.

“The programmes being delivered by CCA partners will provide training in some of the most important areas. Training in rural land management, supply chain and benchmarking and marketing will enable rural business growth as people learn how to sustainably manage their land, identify how their products impact their supply chain and how to market new products and services to new customers and other businesses.”

Rob Bunn, supply chain manager at Yorkshire-based beef suppliers Dovecote Park, said “We are very pleased that Defra has issued a national training programme for farmers. Working with Smiths Gore and CCA LandSkills, we are currently exploring ways to support the farmers we work with across England in areas such as benchmarking and managing their soils.”

The CCA Landskills training programme was launched in 2010 and the new funding will run until March 2014.