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.
Access to independent advice, training skills and knowledge is vital if farmers are going to make the most of the new concepts, and maximise return from their investments as quickly as possible
24/4/15 Visit to National Institute of Agricultural Botany (NIAB) to meet Dr Juno Mckee - Business Projects Manager
ARTIS - Lifelong learning and structured CPD.
NIAB was founded after the First World War, with a mission to provide independent, science-based research and information to support, develop and promote agriculture and horticulture. It is funded by grants and commercial contracts and, at heart, undertakes research, technical services and training. It has around 2500 members, including farmers and distributors.
My visit was to learn more about ARTIS - Agri-tech Register and Training for Innovation and Skills. To quote from the literature - 'ARTIS is an industry-led accredited training initiative, launched in 2014 and developed by G's growers, NIAB, LANTRA and East Malling Research with funding from UK Commission for Employment and Skills. It is focused on improving the consistency, quality and accessibility of training for farm businesses and employers of all sizes operating in the arable, vegetable, salad crop and fruit sectors.' Its focus is on practical skills delivered by leading experts in the subject.
ARTIS is currently funded by the government to build the structure, online platform, network and brand but the aim is to be self sustaining and the farmer will pay at the point of service for courses undertaken. Courses will be designed to the specification requested by members and steering groups, have defined learning outcomes, will not be assessed, and allow individuals to be totally flexible in creating their own development training programme. Some courses will be eligible for gaining NROSO or BASIS points.
I am really interested in the ARTIS approach as it exists to supply a structured CPD route for arable/horticultural farmers who want to learn and develop skills to be the best they can voluntarily without any link to a statutory requirement or voluntary code.
Clearly the agricultural industry already has an amazing array of new technology at its disposal, whether machinery, genetics or electronics and this rate of change will only increase. Farmers need to cope with the variations between crops varieties and understand how nutrient up take will differ, or get the value out of investments such as satellite to tractor operation to mapping to yield increase.
We discussed the provision of training and CPD to farmers and growers, with an amazingly complex landscape of supply. There is a multitude of training providers and courses, but how do farmers identify the ones which will supply those 'future skills?' I can see that there is also a possiblity that as farmers buy into a particular company product there is a potential for lock into proprietary systems and CPD can be industry dominated rather than famer led.
As always there are questions raised:
- It is often hard to differentiate between courses which are knowledge transfer and those that develop new skills
- My experience is that many farmers will undertake the minimum amount of training required by statutory or inspection bodies. Other courses will be attended if free. Encouraging an industry that it needs to spend money on training is difficult. However if you find spending £200 / day on training a problem you probably have the wrong focus, though a clear statement of cost/benefit of any CPD course would be useful
- Many farmers have farmed for generations (and I include myself) and find it hard to believe there is a better way of doing things.