Making the leap from the classroom to the field

05 February 2024

David Clay stood in a field next to a hedge

Photograph: Apprentice David Clay

From classrooms to crops – apprentice David Clay says why he thinks more people should consider starting an agricultural apprenticeship. 

David Clay, 39, is an apprentice working for JL Baxter & Son at Westerhill Farm, near Maidstone, which grows apples, pears, plums, apricots, cherries, and quince and runs a vineyard.

After university, David was a primary and special educational needs teacher in a school before moving on to a further education college, where he became a horticulture tutor and developed a taste for working outdoors.

“I’d gone as far as I wanted to go in education and working with the plants and the natural world out in the fresh air, it felt like I’d found what I wanted to do,” he explained.

“I knew all about apprenticeships because of my education background, and I looked at courses in greens-keeping and gardening, but agriculture really caught my eye as there’s an end goal of producing something useful, not just keeping something looking nice. I saw this opportunity come up and immediately thought I wanted to give it a go.”

‘Farms are beautiful places to be’

Although David has not yet begun his college studies, he has already been on the farm for more than six months, working in the vineyard.

“I’ve been involved with the grapes through the whole growing year – from bud to harvest – and I became involved in viticulture because the area around Maidstone is a centre of British wine production, and I thought this knowledge and
experience would offer me good opportunities for the future.

I don’t understand why more people don’t give it a go.”

Apprentice David Clay

“In terms of a career, I don’t understand why more people don’t give it a go.

“Businesses around here can struggle to get local people interested in their jobs – but farms are beautiful places to be, and you get to work in the sunshine.”

What is an apprenticeship?

There are a number of government programmes available to farmers and growers who are considering hiring workers, offering work experience or making extra training available to existing employees, but apprenticeships offer one of the most popular routes for hiring new workers or upskilling staff.

An apprenticeship is a real job with a training programme where individuals earn while they learn, leading to a qualification, while gaining valuable skills and knowledge in a job. There are more than 500 apprenticeship courses available across all industries, including roles in general farm work, livestock, poultry and animal care and welfare.

For more information, visit: GOV.UK | Recruiting an apprentice.

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