Christopher Padfield  -  Post Formal Education - nurturing and growing talent?

I live on work on a 4th generation family farm on the Gloucestershire / Worcestershire border.  It is a mixed farm consisting of a Beef fattening joint venture and growing combinable crops.  We have been direct drilling all crops including maize for the last decade.  The farm is entered into an HLS scheme which is central to our focus on creating wildlife habitat around the enterprise. We also run some stubble to stubble contracting.

After working abroad in Ghana, Guinea Bissau and France, I worked for a local agricultural college mainly assessing NVQ qualifications.  I also achieved qualifications in Internal and External Verification and a PGCE (adult education).  I then set up a small training company where we offer training services, mainly LANTRA and City and Guilds qualifications, aimed at the land-based skills sector.

When not working, I love riding motorbikes and drinking whisky.  Not a great combination though a recent biking trip to Islay managed to get the best of both worlds.

I would like to thank all those supporting my Nuffield Scholarship, not least the Central Region Farmers Trust for their sponsorship, and my wife and parents for their support and backing.


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SouthWestern - Outsourcing in Cork. Wednesday 2nd February

SouthWestern - Outsourcing in Cork. Wednesday 2nd February

Posted by Christopher Padfield on March 28, 2016

Appears in Business, Livestock

SouthWestern - Outsourcing in Cork. Wednesday 2nd February

Maire McCarthy is Head of Auditing Services at SouthWestern, one of the top business process outsourcing companies in Ireland.  She is also a 2015 Nuffield Scholar.  Maire is in charge of the Bord Bia dairy and beef audits in addition to Failtre Ireland which rates Ireland's hotels.  It was great to get a glimpse at how an outsourcing company works, particularly when it was related  to the livestock inspections regimes, something I have been on the receiving end back in the UK.  Maire passion for developing people was evident when we met up to visit an evening milking on a 60 cow herd using a robotic milker machine on a pasture based system with four of her 'interns' - young people on a college placement at SouthWestern - looking to show how farmers were developing their business.  The next morning I got to talk to the interns for a longer period and it was interesting to find out that those at college now looking at the agricultural industry are daunted from entering the industry when they don't have access to land, that they expect to move from  job to job and that they want to prove their ability through qualifications and CPD. 

Una Fitzgerald, a learning and development specialist, spent some time talking me through the training and development of staff at the company.  When recruiting people for customer service work, a simple 15:15:70 rule was useful, 15% skills, 15% experience, 70% integrity (attitude/mindset) and taking ownership.  She explained how they had set up courses to develop a positive, can do culture in the firm. This was a four stage process starting with a psychometric assessments with an external consultant, leading a business profile average. The second stage concentrated on coaching and training for 5 days spread over a year with emphasis on team building, conflict management, emotional intelligence etc. The third part was an detailed explanation of the business, how it works, the costs and secrets.  The final stage was a set task to come up with ways to improve the business, the best ideas being pitched to management after peer review.

Una also was involved in 360 degree evaluations used for development purposes.  Each participant would nominate a range of  people to review them against key competencies.  Gaps would be identified between  how the participant rated themselves and how others experienced them. This had proved a positive experience leading to conversations where people had realised they had underrated their own skills and consequently, grown as people. Participants were then encourage to join learning and practice sessions where small groups of people talked about work issues and effectively created co-coaching teams.

My thanks to Maire for her time and hospitality and inspiring me with her passion for people.

Greenmount College, Friday 26th February.

Greenmount College, Friday 26th February.

Posted by Christopher Padfield on March 28, 2016

Appears in Business, Dairy, Livestock

Greenmount College, Friday 26th February.

I spent a full day visiting the Greenmount Campus of the College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise in Northern Ireland (CAFRE) organised by Ciaran Hamill (Senior Business Technologist + 2008 Nuffield Scholar looking at electronic identification of livestock). Although largely agricultural, with 200 ha around the campus, it also offers horticultural, vet nursing, floristy and green keeping courses.  There are two other locations where education is offered - Loughry Campus and Enniskillen Campus. It was interesting to find out the college was more integrated with the government (Department of Agriculture and Rural Development) than in some other parts of the UK. My thanks go to Dr Kate Semple for introducing me to the college work.

 The recently built dairy unit had clearly been a major investment with much thought and care in the design - the centre is used extensively by Technologists and Advisors to demonstrate and promote the adoption of the lastest technological advances. However there was also enough scope for students to be actively involved in the work and running of some aspects of the dairy.

 Greenmount College, Friday 26th February.

Skills training is offered e.g. forklift training or pesticide application, and I had an interesting discussion about the future requirements of 'short course' training with Dr Steven Johnston.  Courses are more often taken up due to a legal requirement rather than for any other reason.  However as farms become fewer and larger, some farmers will need to prioritise management skills - people management, budgeting etc. However farmers  often undersell themselves, not seeing their value as managers.  It would be nice to get to a position where skills/short course training was taken up because people want to do it (and feel that they are missing out if they dont) rather than having to do it.

The golf academy has some impressive facilities too and it was fascinating to learn from Paul Campbell how some of the students had completed a degree in the amenity sector but then enrolled on a practical FE course to actually pick up the required physical skills to make them more employable and enhance their career.

The day finished with separate discussions with Prof Eric Long and Dr Sam Kennedy on the challenges of the future of education, training and development in agriculture.  Training needed to move away from the emphasis on compliance with regulations and avoidance of penalties under subsidy schemes to developing capacity and resilience skills.  Farmers of the future will need still higher levels of competence to undertake sophisticated analysis of information both in growing crops and in marketing of produce.  New entrants to farming may well be put off by the lack of professional recognition of the agricultural industry.

Points to Ponder:

Ongoing training and development, recognition of that through a CPD type system, and career progression are all very much undervalued and disorganised in the agriculture sector.

It is evident in pockets, such as BASIS or FACTS type systems, or the Dairy Pro system, any CPD system must be independently verified and validated without large scale administration systems and associated costs


Basis 8th February, Derbyshire

Basis 8th February, Derbyshire

Posted by Christopher Padfield on March 28, 2016

Appears in Business, Crops, Livestock, Pigs

Basis 8th February, Derbyshire

BASIS  was established in 1978 by the pesticide industry at the request of the government to develop professional standards for the storage , transport and use of pesticides in the agricultural industry. It was also remitted to assess the competence of staff. Therefore it is an independent standard setting and auditing organisation.  It is proud of its industry links, being a 'must' for quality assurance programmes and having independant academic accreditation.

BASIS audits some 700 commercal pesticide stores and runs training courses for store keepers but is perhaps best known by farmers for the certificate of competence in crop protection for people involved in sales, advice and usage of agricultural pesticides. This involves a 35 day course with an approved trainer, independant exam, field work and a research project.  There is a shorter Foundation award in agronomy concentrating on the grassland and forage sector.

Under the same umbrella is the FACTS award which assesses proficiency for those giving advice on fertilizer and plant nutrition advice.  Whilst the crop protection qualificaton is satutory, FACTs is not unless the land/farm in question is in an NVZ.  Both BASIS and FACTS benefit from a national syllabus with around 300 people a year completing the BASIS award.

However I was suprised to learn that BASIS Registration Ltd actually offers 50 university accredited qualifications catering for garden centre consultants to drone pilots.  Also there is potential to build from the statutory qualification to diploma and degrees by a series of voluntary add on courses.


The biggest interest in new courses are in the environmental area - biological control, soil compacton, cover crops etc. New areas of focus will be seed traits and applying wastes to land.

A professional register was launched in 1991 with an opportunity to record CPD.  This now consists of approximately 5000 crop consultants, 350 fertilizer advisors, 770 dairy experts (Dairy Pro), 3250 pest control specialists (PROMPT) and 425 amenity professionals.   

We had an interesting discussion on the merits of mandatory and optional training.  For example, Dairy Pro is a great tool for young people coming into the industry to record their achievements and qualifications in one place (personally I think this desire to prove skills and CPD by college leavers is overlooked by older farmers).  However it can also be difficult to maintain the brand and usefulness of the platform without spending on ongoing brand awareness and its benefits, and perhaps pressure from dairy buying groups and supermarkets.  Making parts of the register mandatory, either through law or assurance scheme requirements, allows for certainity  in terms of income to run and maintain the database (and effectively outsources farmers cpd recording to an outside organistion) but may possibly kill the very idea of CPD as an way for postive farmers to grow their staff.


Points to ponder:

Sector based CPD schemes are a good idea and mostly already exist e.g. poultry passport, pig industry professional register PIPR, but are hard to sustain and grow without funding.  Should this be done via some form of mandatory training, or through a levy body?

How do you inspire farmers to do more than the basic minimum staff training when times are hard?



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