Securing the right skills for the future of farming

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Major developments in the way food is being produced mean having the right skills is more important than ever.

BASIS logo

In a guest blog post, Stephen Jacob, Chief Executive of independent education and auditing charity BASIS, explains how his organisation is developing to provide the farming workforce with the training it needs to succeed.

Regardless of the political environment we’re in, agriculture is undergoing some considerable – and rapid – changes.

Whether you’ve worked in the industry for years or are just coming into it, it’s an exciting time and offers a huge number of opportunities for people in the sector.

The changes we’re seeing, however, mean we have to look hard about how the industry is supported in future to make sure we have the right people and skills in place.

Since I arrived at BASIS, my aim has to been to focus on how we’re meeting member needs, understanding the services we offer, and concentrating hard on how we take the organisation forward.

The exciting news is that we are growing; we have seen member numbers grow and my vision is that we will continue to develop on all fronts, whether that’s through the training we offer and looking at new opportunities in the industry, or through auditing services.

The other thing I’ve had to explore in my role is thinking about BASIS’s position in the industry and the people we are representing. 

Much of that has involved looking at how we engage with government, NGO’s and stakeholders, and over the last few years we have been having more of an impact in the industry. We are attending more conferences and events, we’re having more influence, and that’s something I want to keep growing.

Finding the right skills

Another important thing we need to consider is the future of training, and how we are going to get people with the right skills working in agriculture.

Should we be hiring agronomists straight from university, for example, or should we be looking at apprenticeships, training people on the job in business and academia over three years? That’s something we’re working on with industry to understand.

They types of roles are evolving too, with new opportunities in things like soil quality or biopesticides. Developing the right skills for those roles is important and requires an integrated approach, but it’s exciting too.

Driving these developments takes work, which is why we have decided to grow the BASIS team by hiring a Chief Operating Officer to ensure it is properly equipped to support UK agriculture.

From my experience of working at BASIS, the nice thing is that being a charity means we are not competing with the people we support.

It also gives you an opportunity to talk to people from across the sector, from manufacturing to science and research, which is really enjoyable. 

For the right person who likes working with people and building relationships, this really is a fantastic opportunity to get involved in agricultural education and training at a critical time.