Concordia scheme benefits UK growers and helps foreign students gain skills

Concordia is running a scheme for horticultural students from universities on the Continent, which benefits both students and growers.

The students gain experience of the latest methods of producing crops like soft fruit, in addition to UK academic qualifications in production horticulture.

"The growers involved get people who want to learn and further their careers," said Concordia executive director Christine Lumb. "This is what's missing from the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme (SAWS), where youngsters only want the money. The youngsters work in a technological environment that they (generally) don't have at home."

Last year, 238 students participated in the scheme - 45 per cent from the EU, mainly Bulgaria and Romania, and the rest from Russia, Macedonia and the Ukraine. This year around 500 are expected from the same countries, plus Moldavia and Georgia.

The students do "sandwich courses" requiring work experience on UK farms and sitting a City & Guilds exam on production horticulture in their first year and an NVQ Level 3 exam in year two.

"We've now developed a postgraduate course for those who want to return to the UK," added Lumb. "This will enable them to become supervisors, team leaders and eventually managers."

She said growers gain by having well-motivated youngsters who work for most of the 20 to 28 summer weeks of each year. In addition, students attend English and training classes and seminars run by the 12 UK agricultural colleges that partner Concordia in the scheme.

"The growers have got to be prepared to put in time to help train the students," said Lumb.

"The scheme is ongoing and we hope to build on it and possibly even attract UK youngsters who want production horticulture qualifications."


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