1. ITV Report

Farmers urged to employ more apprentices

Oscar Smith is working on a farm in Norfolk ahead of a part-time five-year degree course at Easton and Otley College. Photo:

Farmers across the region are being urged to employ more apprentices to make sure agriculture remains a key industry in the local economy.

They say it's vital to attract the right calibre of employees so that farming has a reliable workforce in the years to come.

Oscar Smith is working on a farm in Norfolk ahead of a part-time five-year degree course at Easton and Otley College starting next month.

Oscar Smith working on the farm.

"Farming has always been changing, so it's just the natural course of events really - that we need a lot more young people coming through, just to help feed the world in the next 20/30 years.

"Therefore, we will need new ideas and we will need innovative people, and that's what we should be bringing."

– Oscar Smith, Agricultural student

It's the freshness of people like Oscar and Kurtis Wilson, who's the first apprentice to be employed by Wayland Farms that the farming industry wants to encourage.

He's two weeks into a one year apprenticeship in the pig industry.

Oscar with Daniel Brice.

"Well I've known from a very early age that I wanted to be into farming. It's second nature coming in, just kicked in and here I am."

– Kurtis Wilson, Apprentice

18 months ago the Edge Apprenticeships in Food and Farming were set up to tackle the skills shortage and widening age gap in the industry in Essex, Norfolk and Suffolk.

Glenn Dams, Managing Director, Wayland Farms.

"I think that farming in the past has maybe not been so structured. Apprentices have joined the team and they've probably not developed as well as they should have.

"The youth of today if you take them on in the first year, they've got a hunger, so the apprenticeship and the future training is to feed that hunger and it should be a win win."

– Glenn Dams, Managing Director, Wayland Farms

Daniel Brice is showing Kurtis the ropes. He came into farming through a University background and says the industry's big enough to absorb graduates and apprentices.

Daniel Brice, Deputy Manager.

"I was quite an academic person, so the academic route, 6th form, university, suited me quite well. But equally looking to use the skills I'd learned on a practical level.

"Someone like Kurtis who's maybe not quite such an academic person, being able to use his skills on farm without having to be bogged down in a classroom all the time probably suits him as well.

"Depends on what sort of person you are as to what route you take, and of course as an apprentice you are earning at the same time, there is that."

– Daniel Brice, Deputy Manager

The hope is agriculture will recognise that those like Oscar and Kurtis are the potential farmers and growers of tomorrow.