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.
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?