Through research carried out by YouGov over three quarters (80 per cent) of young adults still have outdated perceptions of what careers in the industry actually involve. Promisingly, however, the study further uncovered that over a third of young adults selected criteria that match modern day careers in farming when they were asked to describe their ideal job – access to the latest technology (selected by 28 per cent), flexible working hours (56 per cent) and variety in their day to day work.
With 39 per cent of respondents to the new YouGov poll saying they would like more information about careers in farming, Sainsbury’s hopes it will be able invigorate increased interest in farming as a career when today it opens applications for the first apprenticeship for horticulture and agriculture to be launched by a retailer.
The Sainsbury’s apprenticeship programme, which is run in partnership with Staffline, gives young people aged 16 and above the chance to work with some of the retailer’s most progressive food suppliers, many of whom use the latest innovations and technology in the sector – from learning the digital infrastructure of glasshouse computer systems to managing crop growth through the use of drones and smart phone apps.
Every 12 weeks the apprentices visit other growers in Sainsbury’s supply chain which means they get access to 44 days of off-the-job training. In between these visits the apprentices will be back at work learning the practical aspects of their chosen career from harvesting; identifying and dealing with pests, diseases and disorders; planting; monitoring moisture and nutrients; pruning and use of state-of-the art equipment and digital tools.
Sainsbury's horticultural manager Robert Honeysett said: "Our research reveals there’s a significant gap between what young people think of farming, and some of the jobs that are available today. We’re passionate in playing our part to support the future of British farming, and help attract young people into the industry.
"A third of those surveyed (31 per cent) assume they need a family connection to break into the sector, which isn’t the case. We hope our apprenticeship programme will help show that there are a number of alternative routes into farming, and we’d encourage school leavers and young professionals to consider it. It’s one of the most dynamic industries in the UK to work in."
Defra secretary of state Liz Truss said: "Food and farming is vital to Britain’s future, already contributing £100bn a year to the economy. The people who give this industry its extraordinary energy are some of the most innovative in the world and we want more young people to see food and farming as an attractive career.
"Over the next few years we will open up more opportunities for young people by trebling the number of apprenticeships across the sector. We hope to see more leading businesses, like Sainsbury’s, providing our next generation of farmers with the skills, confidence and opportunities to grow our industry."
Liam Walker, apprentice at one of Sainsbury’s tomato suppliers, Cornerways Nursery said: "I’d never previously considered growing tomatoes as a potential career path but I’ve been very surprised about what this role actually involves. From needing to know how to run a business and market a product, I’ve also been using my digital skills much more than I expected, for example to control the glasshouse through a modern computer system. I think a lot of people my age don’t realise just how varied roles in this sector really are."
If you are interested in joining the scheme email: email@example.com.