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.
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.
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