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Industry coalition launches new skills strategy

19th Sep 2018 / By Alistair Driver

An industry coalition has come together to kick-start a new skills strategy with the ambition to equip the agricultural workforce for the future of farming.

Richard LongthorpThe coaltion, which includes NPA vice chairman Richard Longthorp (pictured) on its senior leadership group, is inviting new partners to join the group.

The initiative, which brings together organisations including the NPA, NFU, AHDB, agricultural colleges and leading food producers, manufacturers and retailers, is aiming to bring about a transformation in skills, careers, recruitment, qualifications and continuing professional development.

Skills development has been recognised as a key factor to bridge the UK agricultural productivity gap to other nations with less than 35% of UK farmers having any formal management training. 

Helen Woolley, currently director general of the Country Land & Business Association (CLA) has been appointed as the new chair of the skills leadership group. The group will work with the Food and Drink Sector Council through its Agricultural Productivity and Workforce working groups.

It will aims to deliver a new agriculture and horticulture skills strategy for agriculture and horticulture production, which will focus on delivery in three core work streams:

  • Creating a professional framework with new qualifications relevant to the needs of employers in the future
  • Development of clear career paths and fresh approaches to recruitment
  • Mechanisms to encourage continuing professional development and business support

The Vice Chancellor of Harper Adams University, Dr David Llewellyn, will lead the professional framework and education working group and John Shropshire, of G’s Fresh, will chair the continued professional development and business support group. Richard Longthorp will lead the career paths and recruitment working group.

There wil be representation from farmers and growers, too, with Matthew Naylor, Simon Gadd and Oli Lee on the group, as well as support from retailers and manufacturers, including Sainsbury’s and Nestlé.

Helen Woolley, said: “This is the first step. The skills gap has not appeared overnight, it has developed over decades, which is why we need to address the downturn now more than ever to deliver Brexit with a highly skilled and professional workforce.

Defra Secretary Michael Gove, said: “I am glad to see industry taking the initiative to develop this much-needed skills strategy for the farming sector. This is especially relevant as we look ahead to life outside the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy and the opportunity to make industry more competitive and profitable. 

“This work also forms part of the Food and Drink Sector Council’s aim to improve the productivity of the industry, including through securing an energetic and ambitious workforce." 

Richard, has been involved in the project and said it was very much a follow on from the AgriSkills Forum, which he chairs. "Developing skills and careers and making it easier for businesses to recruit the right individuals will be critical for the pig sector and wider agriculture industry as we leave the EU. I am delighted so many industry organisations have come together for this initiative."

Over the next few months, the group is keen to hear from individuals and organisations who want to join this coalition. If you are interested to get involved, please contact 



The Skills Senior Leadership Group

  • Helen Woolley - Country Land & Business Association Limited
  • Lord Donald Curry of Kirkeharle CBE
  • Richard Longthorp OBE – AgriSkills Forum
  • Dr David Llewellyn – Harper Adams University
  • Simon Gadd – National Farmers Union
  • Oliver Lee - Farmer
  • Jane King – AHDB
  • Louisa Bagshaw – DEFRA
  • Jonathan Back - DEFRA
  • Janet Swadling – Former SRUC CEO, AHDB Board Member
  • John Shropshire OBE – Chairman, G’s Fresh
  • Beverly Dixon – Group HR Director, G’s Fresh
  • Guy Smith – NFU Deputy President
  • Matthew Naylor – Managing Director, Naylor Flowers
  • Tess Howe – AHDB
  • Invited Universities and Colleges