Farming in the Churnet Valley remains important in terms of land use and land management, producing the landscape in which other economic activity in the countryside takes place and which attracts visitors and new residents. It is important to maintain the special features of the CVLLP, for they are selling points for the area and income generators. The importance of the environmental economy will be a key message to farmers and land managers. Retaining the traditional skills to maintain the landscape and heritage will be a challenge that the apprenticeships will address.
There is a need to secure a next generation of farmers and land managers. Staffordshire Rural Hub’s Training Needs Analysis uncovered a range of skills and competences that farmers and land managers felt they required. One of the key deficits identified was in skills to maintain the vernacular features of the land: buildings, boundaries, watercourses, etc; so there is an identified interest.
The aim is to contribute to securing sustainable land management for the future by improved access to agri-environment with similar support services. There will be better opportunity for diversified job creation for farm employees who come through apprenticeships, keeping them in the villages and communities; and an improved chance of maintaining family farms in the project area.
The project will offer work based accredited training, providing a practical skill base for school leavers. It will ensure incorporated training in traditional skills; including heritage restoration and maintenance. The programme will link to the project’s Accredited Training Package either as a stand alone qualification or as separate modules. It will link with the Youth Engagement Programme and the other major programmes described in CVLLP. It will support young people who wish to pursue a career in agriculture with an understanding of the value of heritage, and what type of heritage training they will be expected to undertake, including modules within the ATP.
However, Staffordshire Rural Hub and their agricultural training professionals know from experience the substantial difficulties in persuading small livestock farmers, such as those in the Churnet Valley, to enter employ apprentices. These farmers tend to keep the work in the family. They can ill afford unproductive activity, such as supervising a youngster. Therefore the most critical part of the apprentice programme will be to set up the core mainstream agricultural apprenticeships on which the CVLLP programme will hang, in order that the environmental and heritage added value can be offered under CVLLP accredited training. Sufficient financial incentive to the farmer to take on an apprentice will be a key factor in setting out an appealing offer.
An objective of the programme will be that non participating farmers will see the benefits to be gained, particularly in enhancing the environment and inspiring local young people, reducing unemployment and adding value to their community; and that more of them will come on board. It is intended that the programme will help increase the local labour supply and ensure that the skills are retained.
Messages to the farmers in promoting the programme, as well set out by the NFU, will be that it can help to create a skilled workforce and therefore increase business profits. This increases motivation and recognition of skills for existing staff, thereby reducing staff turnover (recent research shows that in over 80% of cases people who studied as an apprentice are with the same employer after 10 years). It also provides a dedicated workforce – students who sign up for an apprenticeship programme are clearly committed to working in agriculture. The course can be set up specifically allowing flexibility and filling the skills gap on the farm. Specialised streams in conservation and heritage are a valuable addition to the skills package. Training costs are less than hiring highly skilled staff and trainees can be trained to suit your individual needs. Option of flexible delivery to suit the business, especially in busy periods such as harvest. Very little paperwork; and help to complete the paperwork.
It is to be hoped that some of the farmers will be inspired to work with local schools and young people interested in rural community or conservation work and employment opportunities, thereby acting as ambassadors for the industry. The courses will provide a platform for ongoing dialogue with farmers and small landowners. The farm adviser will help identify applicants who will benefit from the apprenticeships and farms to be involved.
Fit to existing strategies and objectives
The NFU “believe that apprenticeships are important in ‘attracting and encouraging young people into a successful career in agriculture’. With the signs of increased confidence in the industry and the need to encourage more people into agriculture it is important for employers to see the advantages of employing an apprentice or putting existing staff through an apprenticeship”.
The Local Economic Assessment for Staffordshire “There is a risk that land management will continue to fragment and horticulture will replace the important land management patterns. The area is included in the RDPE Leader programme, as economically deprived.”
‘England’s rural areas: steps to release their economic potential’. Report of Rural Advocate 2007-8 and Government response: The Government welcomed the Rural Advocate’s challenge to recognise the potential of rural areas and to focus on the opportunities they offer.
Comprehensive description of the project
This is a partnership bid with its own accredited training package (ATP) for land based heritage skills. Agricultural training support will be directed at that project as much as possible - which does not include NPTC etc. for which some provision is made in the budget. HLF derived training funds will cross budgets. In order to support the CVLLP training programme as added value to the agricultural apprenticeship it will be necessary to use two training providers to deliver (Dart Training for agriculture and CVLL ATP for heritage).
The CVLLP is creating a bespoke heritage training package (CVLLP 22) for all those working on environment/canal based projects which will bring together best practice and recognised standards for volunteers and volunteer organisations. The apprentice programme will employ the ATP in its modular form to deliver add on training in environmental and heritage modules for apprentices. The basic agricultural apprenticeship programme will be delivered under the government’s apprenticeship programme.
The ATP will build to level 2 diploma in countryside management; people can undertake the full package and gain the diploma or can undertake specific modules. These modules will be delivered through the short courses programme of CVLLP, and some will be compulsory for the CVLLP Apprenticeships.
The courses will focus particularly on practical heritage management skills such as dry stone walling and green wood working; fencing, hedge-laying, species identification and using a chain saw; community engagement, including education and management and leadership as well as conservation land management work.
The main ACT module delivery will be by the Staffordshire Wildlife Trust Education Officer, appointed to CVLLP, but with expert support/training provision in particular areas such as conservation grassland management; access skills; woodland management skills; and boundary skills: all to be delivered through the ‘specialisms’ of the CVLLP partners.
The apprenticeship will be aimed at next generation farmers and new entrants; school leavers; and land based employers in need of workers in traditional skills.
The dry stone walling and boundary skills will be included in this package, with opportunity to reach level 2 dry stone walling; and are cross referenced in the boundary programme.
The SRH farm Advisor will be an advocate for the apprenticeship scheme; will liaise with trainers to roll out the apprenticeships and with the project’s environmental officer to achieve his/her outcomes. The coordinator will ensure that responses, ideas and suggestions of farmers and apprentices are transmitted and duly considered by the project team as the work evolves. The Farm Advisor will liaise with rural estates to place apprentices; and will also promote the apprenticeship scheme through YFC network, and at events.
The apprenticeship ‘team’, with other CVLLP partners will support the Hub in identifying Farming Ambassadors. The SRH will work with NFU and other farming groups to identify Farming Ambassadors during the programme and to grow employer engagement. The Farming Ambassadors will be encouraged to engage with local schools, working with the community pillars of CVLLP. The benefits of such engagement will be widely publicised to foster business-education links in rural areas, more specifically to promote agricultural apprenticeships and environmental land management career opportunities. The Farm Advisor will work with the accredited learning team, amongst and within the farming and landowning community in CVLLP and help liaise between school and farmer.
There will be ongoing liaison with employers in obtaining the best possible opportunities for learners. SRH will make extensive use of stakeholder and individual feedback to support and promote improvements. It will complete a programme of learners and employers’ surveys throughout each apprentice’s training. Analysis of these surveys will be used effectively to respond to issues.
SRH’s Co-ordinator will provide the project management, backroom support, administration etc. Businesses will have the chance to become involved in the scheme by sponsoring specific aspects including vehicles, trailers, clothing and tools. SRH’s Board will volunteer their time to make approaches.
Outputs and outcomes
Sustainable land management will be secured for the future beyond the project by improved access to agri-environment and similar support; it will provide new and better market opportunities.
An opportunity will be opened for diversified job creation for farm employees who come through the apprenticeships, keeping them in the villages and communities, thus improving the chance of maintaining family farms in the project area
ATP staff and Dart trainers will work flexibly to be accessible for learners. They will support learners with their travel and off-the-job training arrangements and will work to resolve wider barriers to learning and personal welfare issues. The programme will make appropriate use of an equality and diversity action plan. Training providers will carry appropriate insurance and compliance and will enter into a SLA with SRH to that effect. SRH’s Farm Advisor will support ATP and other appointed trainers in delivery of the training programme.
Outcomes for learners:
- 12 apprentices, in a programme designed to reflect the type of farming and heritage features found in Churnet Valley, will add value to their NPTC or agricultural diploma, CPCS occupational certificates in work related areas, key skills training and certification with CVLLP 22
- apprentices progress into further education, training or employment
- tailored training will combine real work with learning and training
- learner is trained in additional areas tailored to the needs of the business
- learner is trained in sustainable land management, historic land management
- learners will develop excellent practical skills
- learners will achieve industrially relevant additional qualifications which they and their employers value
- learners will be taught to comply with the range of legislation and regulations
- participants will be able to meet and exceed the ever increasing health and safety needs of the industry. All learners will have a good awareness of hazards and risks, and demonstrate a positive attitude to safety
They will feel safe whilst at work. There will be an appropriate emphasis on health, safety and well-being. Trainers will use trips and visits to enrich learning and raise learners’ ambitions eg trade shows, specialist equipment manufacturers; farm and estate visits.
Outcomes for farmers:
- 12 farmers gain a fully qualified member of staff or family member to increase profitability & productivity
- Increased profitability and productivity for participating farms
- 6 farmers enlisted as ambassadors to promote further apprenticeships
- farmers engaging in this project will be included in the farmer participant survey which will cover all projects linked to the farming business and community
- At least 100 farmers engage with principles taught through the apprenticeship scheme
- continuity of traditional skills is secured on 12 farms in the project area
- at least 40 land managers with a commitment to natural and environmental conservation management of land
- at least 40 land managers with non-grant based financial benefit from grassland management
During the course of the project and running alongside it we aim to establish a skills directory on the SRH website which will enable those working in the Rural Skills Industry to advertise their skills to as wide an audience as possible. Separate funding will be sought. This project will be delivered by the Staffordshire Rural Hub, with an apprenticeship training specialist as a Delivery Partner, payment will be made at 50% of expenditure in arrears, upon receipt of evidence of expenditure and upon meeting agreed targets.
Costs – main costs are borne by the government apprenticeship programme. CVLLP will add heritage and environment value added to the core training.
Risks and constraints
Risk: Key staff retention and relationships with our training partners need to be built up over time, staff recruitment and retention is therefore important.
Contingency planning: Project is over a reasonable timescale compared to many other projects of 12 to 18 months; this should attract committed staff.
Risk: long term staff absence, for example maternity leave or illness, could affect the success of the project. Risk of breakdown in the SRH’s relationship with the trainer will be addressed with a SLA.
Contingency planning: Contingency budget to pay for cover for staff if necessary.
Risk: Lack of placements for apprentices with local farmers. Changes to the education service for identifying applicants. The Farming Ambassador corridor breaks down from failure to engage ambassadors.
Contingency planning: This project has been conceived with the Staffordshire Rural Hub specifically as they have the ‘ear’ of the agricultural community; however, it can still be difficult to engage farmers. Potential lack of placements has been addressed in the TNA undertaken in 2011, which identified possible farmer participants. The TNA has produced a comprehensive schedule of farmers in the project area. We have also engaged with NFU and YFC to promote the scheme and identify and motivate the ambassador network.
Post Project Failure Risks
Risk: Farmers find themselves too busy to take on apprentices, particularly once the small financial incentive is withdrawn.
Contingency planning: During the project we aim to grow a bank of farmers and landowners willing to take on apprentices. With greater opportunities for placements we would anticipate a greater number of environmental apprenticeship opportunities opening in CVLLP beyond the life of the scheme. SRH will continue to support farmer groups, promote training and actively encourage environmental economy amongst local landowners and will continue as a go-between for placements.
SRH will work with the landowner community through the apprenticeship scheme, to help them adjust to issues relating to climate change and to help them better understand how good management can help buffer the wildlife important sites on their land from the results of climate change.
SRH apprentices will take the opportunity to work with the Participation Team to involve as many people as possible in the Himalayan balsam pulling project.
Our apprentices and their supervisors will maintain high levels of biosecurity within their site work, particularly with reference of Phytothfera contagion between woodland parcels. They will also work with others to raise the awareness of biosecurity issues within the valley.
Green Procurement: Within our project SRH will identify and 'economise' the biodiversity resources of the Churnet Valley, by purchasing/using local products to deliver elements of the project. For the appointment of contractors and supervisors SRH will make use of the EU Green Procurement Toolkit to maximise environmental benefit.
Follow Environmental Policy: SRH’s delivery team will be expected to adhere to the SRH Environmental Policy.