‘Facilitate and promote the importance of continuing professional development (CPD) now in order to modernise and professionalise our land-based industries and prepare them for the economic and environmental demands of the future!’
This was the unanimous topline message at the end of a constructive Farming Connect conference held at the Royal Welsh Showground, Llanelwedd last month.
Euryn Jones, Chair of the Farming Connect programme board, led the event which was attended by invited representatives from key rural sector stakeholders including farming professionals, supply chain organisations, colleges and training providers, Welsh Government policy officials, the careers service, farming unions, Wales YFC and others involved with delivering skills, training and CPD support services for the land-based sectors.
The delegates’ collective task after a packed programme of presentations and group workshops was to help identify the key opportunities and challenges facing today’s agricultural, horticultural and forestry workers and to consider what support systems need to be put in place to encourage employers to facilitate and reward the skills, development and training opportunities for all those in the rural sector workforce.
During the event, Dr. Nerys Llewelyn Jones, Chair of the Agricultural Advisory Panel for Wales, shared details of a new ‘call for evidence’ which will help inform the work of the panel’s sub-committee in formulating a new strategy for skills development and training for the rural sector in Wales. She emphasised that the sub-committee is keen to hear from as many stakeholders as possible.
“It is essential that we collect as much data and information as we can to ensure that the recommendations we make to the Welsh Government are evidence-based and truly reflect the needs of the industry,” said Dr. Llewelyn Jones, who added that an integrated approach will enable stakeholders to prioritise key issues and help find solutions to any problems which are identified.
“This may mean small tweaks in some places, bigger fixes in others but whatever the requirement, we will utilise the evidence gathered to create a strategic vision that everyone can support, a vision which is both pragmatic and achievable in its approach.”
Dr. Llewelyn Jones added that the new strategy will reflect the five key stages in the career development of all rural workers, namely their experience of school, higher education – including apprenticeships – and lifelong learning as well specific provision for new or young entrants.
“The skills, energy and focus of all individuals working or wanting to work in the industry must be recognised and valued.
“By working collaboratively, we can enable each of them to acquire the knowledge, learning and career potential that will help safeguard the future of the agriculture, horticulture and forestry sectors in Wales.”
Inspirational new entrant Ernie Richards, who is a member of the NFU Next Generation forum and a former Lantra Learner of the Year, took to the platform and spoke of the opportunities he had received through a combination of academic studies and Farming Connect’s subsidised training provision. He also urged other young farmers to utilise Storfa Sgiliau, Farming Connect’s secure online record-keeping tool which keeps his personal development aims on track.
Prys Morgan, UK Livestock Procurement Officer for Merthyr-based food product manufacturers Kepak and Llyr Lewis, development manager of Welsh Lamb & Beef Producers, which runs the FAWL (Farm Assured Welsh Livestock) scheme, both focused on the red meat industry, emphasising the need for all supply chain partners to work together with clear messaging, to ensure consumers are reassured on critical issues including animal health and welfare, environmental requirements and the unprecedented risk of global warming.
“Our industry is in a good position here in Wales, with regenerative farming and the highest animal health standards striking a chord with many buyers, but we have more to do to make sure our voice is heard and our messaging clear.
“Our industry needs to be innovative and tech-savvy with data recording systems in place to prove our credentials across all areas of working.
“Our skill force must be trained to reflect the current and future demands of the industry, its supply chain partners and consumers, which is why we must continue to work collaboratively to achieve this,” said Mr. Morgan, who explained to delegates why Kepak are investing heavily in formal training and career development opportunities which have already led to greater productivity, increased staff retention and raised staff morale.
Dr. Llewelyn Jones drew the event to a close, summarising what had been achieved.
“Today’s conference is the start of a new conversation that will better inform the ‘call for evidence’, drawing people together to consider the barriers and how those can be overcome.
“Our collective aim must be to facilitate areas where a more co-ordinated, collaborative approach will help create clearer progression routes for all those involved in our land-based sectors.
“Further information on how and when to submit feedback for the ‘Call to evidence’ will be issued shortly and I would urge you to participate.”