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Government needs to do more to support industry apprenticeships, Longthorp tells Countryfile

11th Feb 2020 / By Alistair Driver

Former NPA chairman and Yorkshire pig farmer Richard Longthorp banged the drum for training and apprenticeships in agriculture during an appearance on Sunday’s BBC Countryfile programme.

Sean CountryfileA feature on training in farming featured Sean King, who, originally from a mining background, benefited from an apprenticeship at Richard’s farm and now oversees a herd of 1,800 outdoor sows at the unit. Sean, who started working with pigs when he was 14, said he could not be doing the job to the level he is now without his apprenticeship.

He told interviewer Tom Heap that it was a misconception that pig farming is easy to pick up. “For all it is not considered a skill, I would put it above a skilled grade job. These are athletes that have to perform,” he said.

You can view the programme here - the feature on training starts at about 18:30 mins, with the section on Richard’s farm starting about 22:40 mins.

Richard is chairman of the industry-led Trailblazer Apprenticeships programme, which aims to give employers a big say in developing standards across three schemes - crop technicianstockperson, and packhouse line leader.

Interviewed about the progress with the programme, he said the Government was not listening to his requests to require certain industry tests needed to work on a farm safely.

Longthorp Countryfile“They are not allowing us to include individual qualifications such as the tractor test, forklift test and certificate of safe use of veterinary medicines, the sort of things that historically have been included in apprenticeships. Farmers want to know why they are suddenly no longer allowed,” he said.

The government said the new apprenticeships do include all the training necessary to take exams like tractor and fork lift test, even if they don’t include the tests themselves. But Richard described its response as ‘not very satisfactory’.

He said there were a lot of ‘very skilled people’ across farming, but there were still some lagging behind.

“If we get people with the right skills in the right places, the future of British agriculture is marvellous,” he added.  

“I see agriculture as being the solution to many problems, not just feeding the world and feeding the country but also creating solutions for environmental issues. People should be attracted into the industry to help solve those problems.”

NPA chief executive Zoe Davies described the feature as an excellent advert for the benefits of training in farming and said it made a strong case for better Government support. "Sean and Richard did a fantastic job on behalf of the industry - well done to them both!" she said. 

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