NFU urges Government to back training for growers following National Strategic Skills Audit

The farming industry has called on the next government - whatever its colour - to throw its weight behind training for farmers and growers after a national skills audit ranked agriculture and horticulture 25th out of 27 for its future economic significance but third on the list for its skills deficit.

The NFU said the National Strategic Skills Audit for England - the first from the UK Commission for Employment and Skills - risks turning off new people to agriculture and horticulture at a time when they are needed most and could result in decreased spending for training and skills on the ground.

The NFU was speaking on behalf of partners in the AgriSkills Forum which launched its own strategy ‘Towards a new professionalism' in February.

The strategy aims to highlight the urgent need to recognise the skills which underpin farming and growing industries in the UK and increase the professional image of the sector to attract new entrants to both agriculture and horticulture.

NFU Deputy President Meurig Raymond, and chairman of the AgriSkills Forum, said that given the Government's own Food 2030 vision highlighted the need to increase investment and the impact of education, training and research for food and farming, the results of the UKCES report were staggering in their omission.

"We were pleased by Defra's support for the launchof the AgriSkills Strategy in February but I am very disappointed that the Government's ‘New Industries New Jobs' framework and UKCES has given agriculture and horticulture such low priority," said Mr Raymond.

"This is particularly strange given the major strategic role that farmers and growers have and will play in securing the nation's food security, and in feeding a growing global population, while at the same time using less natural resource, and reducing agriculture's impact on the environment.

"The UKCES report also demonstrates a complete lack of understanding of the importance of the food supply chain in the UK.

"We shouldn't forget that it employs some 3.6 million people and incorporates the country's largest manufacturing sector, contributing £155 billion to our GDP. Great skill and dedication form the backbone of our industry and these need to be recognised and invested in."

"We are very concerned that this report ranked agriculture and horticulture, the industries that feed the nation, of low economic significance particularly as it will be used by Regional Development Agencies to prioritise funding support for the industry.

"Portraying the farmers and growers as low-skilled and of low priority could colour consumer opinion and jeopardise future funding for much-needed skills and training. Lantra has estimated that 60,000 newworkers will be needed in the land-based sector in the next ten years. Training and investment, and recognition of those skills we depend on to produce our food, is crucial if we are to achieve all that is expected of our farmers and growers in the 21stcentury."


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