Agri-food focus for bright young talent

_33398Now is the perfect time to start to raise the profile of the opportunities for young people in the agri-food sectors as the country celebrates National Apprenticeship Week, (NAW 2016) a campaign designed to celebrate apprenticeships and the positive impact they have on individuals, businesses and the wider economy.

The agri-food industry has an urgent need to find young people with the skills to help shape its future. In an ever more competitive recruitment landscape, we need to change the perception of our industry to attract bright young talent.

We know that the skilled trade sectors in the agri-food industry are where there is set to be significant growth in jobs but worryingly also an increase on in the current skills gap.

This is likely to increase further as we see a trend for greater mechanisation; already 60% of British farmland is now managed by elements of precision farming techniques (BBSRC). There will be future demand for highly skilled technology and engineering operatives as the challenge to produce more food on less land increases.

The UKCES Employer Skills Survey published in January highlighted the concerns many agri-food business have regarding the ability to attract and retain talent at all entry levels, particularly apprentices. The agri-food industry came bottom in applicants with both numerical and statistical skills and applicants with a lack of any specialist skills.

To ensure we prepare for the jobs of the future, we need to make sure there is adequate investment into the talent pipeline now. With current investment of £140 million into the Agri Tech Catalyst fund we must work hard to ensure that when we start to see this investment come through as applied technology on farms, we have enough skilled operatives to retain this competitive edge.


Recent research published by Cascaid Careers in January is showing us that young people are identifying jobs in design, engineering and technology as preferred career destinations.

However it also showed that they are completely unaware that these types of job exist and are set to increase in the food and farming industries. In fact the agri food sector didn’t even make the top twenty industries that young people would consider working in.

Bright Crop, a collaborative careers initiative that brings together businesses from across farming and food supply and helps them raise the profile of careers in the industry, will be attending The Big Bang Fair this week (Mar 16-19 at The NEC.

The event is the UK’s largest celebration and promotion of the Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) based industries to schools. The event has been running for seven years and up until last year the agricultural industry was completely unrepresented.

With 70 percent of jobs in the agri-food sector having a STEM subject foundation, its imperative that the industry starts to better communicate to young people and arguably more importantly the people that influence their career decisions for the future.

:: The National Apprenticeship Service is part of the Skills Funding Agency, which is an executive agency sponsored by BIS to fund skills training for further education (FE) in England.