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Vast Majority of Small Farms Struggle To Recruit Apprentices

The vast majority of small farming businesses need more help and support in recruiting much-needed apprentices, a new report says.

Flexible approaches to training and employment are key to helping smaller farm operations recruit and train new entrants, according to the research by Lantra.

Launched at the Oxford Farming Conference, the skills charity explains why the use of apprenticeships in British farming is low and why there are barriers.

And while there is a high appetite for apprenticeships, 9 out of 10 small farming businesses need more support, the report says.

It calls for a fresh approach to widen the uptake of apprenticeships to support family-run farms to meet their business needs.

Lantra’s chair of trustees, Dr David Llewellyn said: "Often first-time employers, farms are understandably challenged by the recruitment and employment of an apprentice.

‘’The industry would benefit from an intermediary body to take on this burden, helping farmers become effective mentors and ultimately, employers.

"This approach could de-risk apprenticeships for small and micro employers."

A front-loaded apprenticeship programme with work-readiness training, including relevant operator certificates, could ensure that apprentices are safe and productive from an earlier point in their training.

In addition, the research identified a need for an alternative pathway into the farming industry to meet the needs of small farm businesses.

Current academic requirements of apprenticeships (Level 2 English and Maths) are seen as a barrier to entry for many people who are otherwise well-suited to farm work.

Mr Llewellyn explained: "Learning from best practice in Scotland, an alternative pathway would consist of a 6-month training programme which includes work-readiness training, before the apprentice is placed on a farm.

"Delivery of such a programme in England, requires a reform of apprenticeship and skills policy.”

The report is based on engagement with over 550 farming employers, as well as secondary data analysis.


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