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The Co-operative Farms launches new apprentice scheme to train the farmers of the future
Tuesday, 22 February 2011 11:45
co-operative farmsThe Co-operative Farms is launching a national agricultural apprenticeship scheme on six farms across England and Scotland.

The scheme is aimed at 17-19 year olds, and has been designed to help The Co-operative Farms find and train the farming talent of the future. No previous agricultural experience is required so it is a good way of allowing new entrants into the industry too.

Eight apprenticeships have been established at participating Co-operative farms. Once on the scheme, students will get the chance to complete an agricultural NVQ up to level three, which they will be given two to three years to complete depending on their level of previous experience. Reaseheath College, in Cheshire, will be the training providers for the scheme.

In addition to the skills training, the apprentices will also benefit from mentoring. Christine Tacon, Managing Director of The Co-operative Farms, says this experience is immeasurable: ”The Co-operative Farms has always attracted a very high calibre of employee, so there is an established wealth of knowledge that people working on our farms can pass onto the people who will step into their shoes.

“The mentoring aspect of the scheme is important, as there is more to farming than understanding technology and production. Learning about different soil types, microclimates and how crops have performed historically in particular fields are also vital lessons. Talking to people who have farmed a specific area for a long time is often the quickest route to finding the best course of action.”    

The students will learn about key areas of the business: cereal and root crops, vegetable and fruit growing. Each apprentice will receive a bespoke teaching package that has been drawn up to suit the farm they are working on, its crops and specific business needs. All of the apprentices will receive training in areas like health and safety and environmental management.

Natalie Gascoyne, Course Manager for The Co-operative Farms’ apprenticeship course at Reaseheath College, said: “We are very excited about this bespoke apprenticeship scheme and hope it marks the beginning of a long partnership between Reaseheath and The Co-operative Farms.

“We have been very impressed with the commitment to training shown by The Co-operative Farms, and the importance they have placed on using the skilled staff already working on their farms as mentors for these new apprentices.”

Anyone interested in taking up a place on The Co-operative Farms apprenticeship scheme, should visit The Co-operative Farms website for an application form: http://www.co-operative.coop/farms/careers

Interviews for the apprenticeship scheme will be taking place throughout March and the successful candidates will be expected to start work on their allotted farm from the beginning of April.   

The Co-operative Farms is Britain’s biggest farmer, with over 50,000 acres of land, owned and managed by The Co-operative farms, and over 100 years of farming experience. The six farms that are running the apprenticeship scheme are at: Ashby St Ledgers in Warwickshire; Down Ampney in Gloucestershire; Coldham in Cambridgeshire; Berwickshire in the Scottish Borders; Tillington in Herefordshire and Highland Court in Kent.  

The Co-operative Farms’ apprenticeship scheme will run in tandem with The Co-operative Group’s broader apprenticeship scheme, which is due to launch at the beginning of May. It will give young people the chance to get involved in other areas of The Group’s business such as banking and retail.

Inspiring young people is a key element of the Group’s groundbreaking Ethical Operating Plan, which launched last week.