The widely lauded Pre-Apprentice scheme which is run jointly by Borders Machinery Ring, Ringlink Scotland and Tarff Service has been feted for attracting and preparing young people for a future in the rural and agricultural sectors.
The Land-Based Pre-Apprenticeship Programme, which has been running since 2019 as part of a national pilot scheme with support from Scottish Government and Skills Development Scotland, provides youngsters looking to work in farming a valuable and practical introduction to the land-based working environment.
And, highlighting the success of the scheme in the run up to National Apprenticeship week which starts on Monday, the organisers said that 136 trainees from across Scotland were on track to, or had already completed the programme - and many had gone on to attain Modern Apprenticeships or full-time employment in their chosen fields.
Gail Robertson, Group Operations Manager at Ringlink Scotland, said that rapid industry change and several workforce challenges meant the initiative was vital if the industry was to remain responsive to the sector’s current and future needs.
“Farming and other rural professions are under threat from an ageing population and severe competition for staff, to list but a few issues, but we are proud that the pre-apprenticeship programme provides young people from all backgrounds the skills and knowledge necessary to kick-start what can be a valuable and rewarding career.”
Robertson said that the programme was delivered in two stages. The first part consisted of a classroom-based introduction to the sector, involving tuition on tractor driving, rough terrain telescopic forklift operating, first aid, manual handling, health and safety risk assessments and undertaking the Certificate of Work Readiness qualification (SCQF4).
She said that phase two was centred around six months of full-time paid employment with a rural mentor business, allowing the trainee to sharpen their skills and gain hands-on work experience.
“Business mentors (typically farmers) play a crucial role in providing a gateway for new entrants into the industry, offering a working environment that fosters a strong work ethic as well as social and communication skills, and imparting their knowledge on the next generation,” she said.
One individual who had successfully completed the course, Logan Smith - who was not from a farming background - now works at McGregor Farms in the Scottish Borders and said the course had been extremely valuable and advised anyone even considering the idea to go for it:
“Even if it ends up not being right for you, it’s great for getting an insight into the agricultural world and opening doors to more opportunities.”
Although funding for the 2022 programme was still pending, Robertson said that anyone aged between 16 and 21 interested could apply for this year’s course which starts in June up until the end of March at the Ringlink website.