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.
In the broad overview, I like the concept of the poultry passport. To be able to say that all farm staff have had Welfare training, Safety training etc is fantastic and should be encouraged.
At the kind invitation of Patrick Hook, I visited PD Hook in Oxford to learn more about how a large agricultural enterprise handles staff training and development. I am very grateful for Jackie Newman (Head of HR at P D Hook (Hatcheries) Ltd ) for her time. As my farming background is arable and beef, I knew little of the poultry world, so it was a steep learning curve.
The business uses the industry recognised British Poultry Training Scheme or Poultry Passport. Each job role has a minimal training requirement ranging from Level 1 to Level 4. At Level 1 workers are required to have a formal induction, and attend short courses in Health and Safety, Poultry Welfare, Biosecurity and Hygiene and Manual Handling. As the levels increase then work based Diplomas (formally NVQ's) are added and skills such as First Aid.
It was really interesting to hear the positives of such training, that those with few qualifications or at the start of their career get a pathway to new skills, recognised and portable within and without the industry. CPD was clearly linked to Health and Safety, not only physical safety but also mental safety e.g. stress.
I will nail my colours to the mast and say that, in the broad overview, I like the concept of the poultry passport. To be able to say that all farm staff have had Welfare training, Safety training etc is fantastic and should be encouraged across the whole of agriculture. However, having worked at various times on NVQ's as an assessor, or internal verifier or external verifier, I am aware of the pitfalls of forcing older, experienced staff to do 'paper chasing' type qualifications. The skill, or otherwise, of the assessor and awarding body will make or break the usefulness of the Diploma. Nevertheless, once the bullet has been bitten, all new staff accept and expect to undertake the work and, over a long period, it becomes a useful learning tool.
I had four points to ponder
- Are farm assurance schemes a good vehicle to use as a stick to force staff training?
- In general, small farming businesses probably don't put enough attention on staff induction and safety
- Is one of the best ways to motivate staff to actually listen to what they say?
- Work with talent - identify staff who want to develop.