Apprenticeships key to success of livestock sector

A new initiative which focuses on raising the profile of the opportunities available in Scotland’s world-famous livestock sector aims to ensure a reliable pipeline of future employees with the required skills and knowledge for the job.

Beef and sheep careers
Beef and sheep careers

A new collaborative project between NFUS, Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) and Borders College aims to encourage more youngsters to consider taking up an apprenticeship scheme in the sector which mixes practical on-farm experience with college learning.

The organisations said that the Beef and Sheep Farming Careers project would highlight different routes towards an apprenticeship whether direct from school, college, as a career changer or through a pre-apprenticeship.

With a range of agricultural apprenticeship courses which cover all sectors of the industry, Border College also offers a certificate of specialisation in beef and sheep farming.

The College’s Mary Thomson said that in addition to the knowledge and skills required in animal welfare, productivity, mechanisation, and grassland management the apprentices would also have the opportunity to complete valuable and highly relevant induction units in biodiversity and climate change.

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She said the project would help raise awareness of what was involved for both the learner and the employer and showcase the many benefits work-based learning could bring.

“… we hope that this will encourage more learners to consider a career in agriculture. We also look forward to hearing from Borders Region employers interested in providing a work-based learning opportunity to a student,” said Thomson.

George Jamieson, Skills Policy Manager at NFUS said the initiative would also help ensure there was a pipeline of future employees coming through with the relevant skills and knowledge required to farm in a dynamic, developing industry.

He added that the project would address many of the recommendations raised in the NFUS ‘Education and Skills in Farming and Crofting Report’, which was derived from a series of focus groups within the industry, and to raise the profile of food and farming and to train the trainers and support farmers as employers and mentors.

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“The focus groups highlighted a number of perceived barriers to employers in hiring an apprentice and we want to address some of these barriers and showcase the many benefits an apprentice can bring to a business and to employers,” Jamiseon added.

A key part of the initiative revolves around a series of case studies showcasing personal experiences from both apprentices, work placement students and employers, shareable infographics, links to resources to support employers and a social media takeover.

One of the apprentices who will be sharing their story is currently undertaking a Modern Apprenticeship on Pilmuir Farm, a mainly livestock farm, on the outskirts of Hawick.

Matthews Thomson from Pilmuir Farm who originally took the student on as a work placement has encouraged her to move onto her Modern Apprenticeship said:

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“As a young person myself running a farming business I know opportunities are hard to come by and it’s been great to be able to give another young person an opportunity to learn about the industry in a positive manner.”

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