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.
Training and development for agricultural machinery dealerships - a case study.
Meeting with Freddie Pullan, Manager, Technical Training UK and Ireland and John Gregson, Product Support Manager UK and Ireland at AGCO, Abbey Park
A really interesting day at AGCO with John and Freddie learning about how AGCO seek to work with dealerships for Challenger, Fendt, GSI, Massey Ferguson and Valtra to develop and retain technicians, and also the challenges of providing product training to farmers on farms.
The discussion started with the challenges in recruiting and retaining quality technicians to work in the dealerships to service and support the agricultural sector. AGCO was working with all the other major manufacturers and the Agricultural Engineers Association (http://aea.uk.com/) to promote Agricultural Engineering as a career.
To this end AGCO works in partnership with Moreton Morrell College to run an apprenticeship scheme - a 3 1/2 year scheme moving after 2 years at Intermediate Apprenticeship (level 2) to 15 months at Advanced Apprenticeship (level 3). AGCO seek to add value to the course by offering courses on engines, gearboxes, and soft skills such as customer care and service systems. It will be interesting to see how the new Trailblazer apprenticeships will be developed (http://www.farming.co.uk/news/article/10761) .
However once technicians start to work at dealerships there may be limited scope to 'progress' up a career ladder or structure due to relatively flat management structures or the small size of the business. Indeed this is probably even more of a problem on most small to medium farms which have almost no ability to progress. Therefore I was very interested to learn of the Land-Based Technician Accreditation Scheme - LTA which is an industry wide scheme supported by AEA, MEA and BAGMA to offer a structured career path for technicians and apprentices and to which most major manufacturers have signed up. The exact details can be access by the link (http://www.iagre.org/lta/intro) but briefly consists of 4 levels, which aim to increase the skills and abilities of the technician. It was interesting to see the increasing emphasis on soft skills and mentoring as the levels increased.
AGCO also runs a 3 day management course for the owner/principal of each dealership concentrating on business management and efficiencies. A well run respectable business was good for them and the manufacturer and it was noted that participation in dealer leadership management courses often drove LTA take up.
I then raised the issue of training customers in the use of the tractor product and features. It was my opinion that some farmers do not necessarily ensure that all their staff could use the tractor or machine to its full potential and make the most efficient use of an expensive bit of kit. Perhaps an analogy is of driving your car to a race track to receive lessons on driving a F1 car. Most people would resent someone telling them how to drive their family car to the race track but would listen to an instructor on the race track. Nevertheless most lessons learnt at the track would be applicable to operation of the family car on the way home. The Dealer has a duty to install the tractor when supplied, but it is up to the farmer to take up the offer of any further training or help. A number of useful booklets and audio CDs have been created by Massey Ferguson to help customers. Plans were also discussed for the booklets to be able to be scanned by a mobile device to link to relevant web based videos on efficient operation which I think would be an excellent resource. AGCO was also encouraging dealerships to build on the existing practice of making available technology specialists (demo guys) to visit farms on request. This seemed to work well when setting up satellite technologies, often requiring 2-4 visits.
There are four points that I want to think about more:
- Training on farms is often seen as an unwarranted expense rather than an investment.
- Large companies often make use of staff appraisals, who is appraising the farmer on a family farm?
- Farmers need to have a constructive appraisal process for staff?
- When looking at making businesses better, do managers ask themselves what they can do to make themselves better in running the business?