Programme needed to promote food and farming to new entrants, says East Anglian college principal

A new programme to promote the appeal of food and farming to new entrants is essential, says an East Anglian college principal.

David Lawrence, who is head of Easton College, spoke of the glowing opportunities for young people to join a vital industry.

Statistics show that 242,000 extra people will be needed in the agricultural industry in the next 10 years, he told 120 delegates at the latest Suffolk Agricultural Association spring conference.

Mr Lawrence, who was speaking at Trinity Park, told delegates that competition for skilled school leavers has never been so high.

Suffolk and Norfolk employ 10% of the whole of the UK’s agricultural workers, so pressures in the region will be even more acute, he added.

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While the food and farming industry had an ageing workforce, and in fact more so than other parts of the country, the number of migrant workers coming into the country and into the farming industry was also decreasing rapidly. He suggested that more initiatives such as the Food and Farm Student Day need to be implemented, which aims to bring farming alive to 13- to 16-year-olds and helps them see what a great career agriculture can be.

Mr Lawrence said that consultation on the formal merger Easton and Otley Colleges had received wide support from employers and bodies including the Suffolk Agricultural Association and AtlasFram Group.

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The future of farming in East Anglia and the UK was a broad theme of the conference.

Farming was undergoing a period of change, with technological advances pushing it forward while higher costs and a labour skills shortage hampering progress.

Meanwhile, Richard Anscombe, chief executive of the AtlasFram Group, one of the UK’s largest farmer-owned cooperatives, urged delegates to take full advantage of the benefits of cooperative membership.

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