Building an agricultural workforce fit for the future

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An industry coalition has united to kick-start a new skills strategy with the ambition to equip the agricultural workforce for the future of farming and invites new partners to join the group.

Key organisations and stakeholders, including the NFU, AHDB, agricultural colleges and leading food producers, manufacturers and retailers have united to back a transformation in skills, careers, recruitment, qualifications and continuing professional development.

Skills development has been recognised as a key factor to bridge the UK agricultural productivity gap to other nations with less than 35% of UK farmers having any formal management training.

Helen Woolley, currently Director General of the Country Land & Business Association Limited (CLA) has been appointed as the new Chair of the skills leadership group. Working with the Food and Drink Sector Council through its Agricultural Productivity and Workforce working groups, the skills leadership group aims to deliver a new agriculture and horticulture skills plan within wider Industrial Strategy proposals to accelerate growth across the Agri-Food Chain.

The new skills strategy for agriculture and horticulture production will focus on delivery in three core work streams:

  • Creating a professional framework with new qualifications relevant to the needs of employers in the future
  • Development of clear career paths and fresh approaches to recruitment
  • Mechanisms to encourage continuing professional development and business support

Helen Woolley, said: “This is the first step. The skills gap has not appeared overnight, it has developed over decades, which is why we need to address the downturn now more than ever to deliver Brexit with a highly skilled and professional workforce.

“It’s great to see the support for this work from the NFU, AHDB, Lantra, Landex and NLBC. The Vice Chancellor of Harper Adams University, Dr David Llewellyn, will lead the professional framework and education working group, John Shropshire, of G’s Fresh, chairing the continued professional development and business support group and Richard Longthorp leading the career paths and recruitment working group.

“We have farmers and growers shaping activity with Matthew Naylor, Simon Gadd and Oli Lee, as well as vital support from retailers and manufacturers, such as Sainsbury’s and Nestlé.”

Secretary of State for Defra, Michael Gove, said: “I am glad to see industry taking the initiative to develop this much-needed skills strategy for the farming sector. This is especially relevant as we look ahead to life outside the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy and the opportunity to make industry more competitive and profitable.

“This work also forms part of the Food and Drink Sector Council’s aim to improve the productivity of the industry, including through securing an energetic and ambitious workforce.

“I look forward to the group developing lasting solutions that work for the agriculture and horticulture industry, and equip the workforce for the future of farming.”

Dame Fiona Kendrick, Chairman of Nestlé UK & Ireland, said: “The launch of the AHDB Skills Strategy is very timely, alongside the Food and Drink Sector Council’s own work on skills and workforce, which I lead. I will be working very closely with AHDB, NFU, manufacturers, retailers and the whole food and drink value chain to ensure we deliver solutions to the serious skills shortages we face in our industry.”

Over the next few months, the Skills Leadership Group is keen to hear from Individuals and organisations who want to join this coalition on skills and add expertise to the work-streams. If you are interested to get involved, please contact



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