A strategic partnership between AGCO dealer, Crawfords Group – comprising Crawfords, Agwood and Crawfords Automotive, and Plumpton College in East Sussex will ensure that students and apprentices gain practical experience and training on modern tractors with the latest technology, fully aligned with the needs of the industry.

Crawfords represents Valtra and Fendt from four depots looking after customers in East and South-East England. The network also includes three Agwood depots representing Massey Ferguson in Kent, and East and West Sussex.

Plumpton College provides land-based and environmental education and training to 5,000 students on full- and part-time courses annually. The mixed livestock and arable farm on 780ha includes a large dairy herd, as well as a state-of-the-art high welfare pig production unit, and sheep/beef grazing on the South Downs. As the home of UK wine industry education and training, the college also has a successful vineyard which produces still and sparkling wines, as well as its own garden based in Brighton. All College students learn at the modern college premises and apprentices gain practical training during work placements combined with their full-time employment in local, regional and national businesses. This year, there are over 500 students enrolled through apprenticeships, and the college apprenticeship programme recently received the highest ‘Outstanding’ Ofsted rating.

Always the latest tractors

The initial three-year agreement between Crawfords Group and Plumpton College means that students will have three of the latest Valtra tractors always available for technical and operator training, based at the college farm. The first delivery, in mid-May this year, included two N5-series models and a G-5 series, two with powershift transmissions and one with a Direct CVT unit allowing operators to become familiar with both types of system. One tractor has Valtra’s SmartTouch Extend GPS guidance system fitted, which will be transferred to new tractors as the fleet is updated twice each year.

Securing the future

“We already enjoyed an excellent relationship with Plumpton College as some of our own staff were trained there,” explained Crawfords Group Business Director, Alan Haines. “There are currently two apprentices from the college working at our Billingshurst, West Sussex depot. They are excellent and clearly benefit from the mix of college and dealer workshop-based training.

“The Crawford family and business managers all believe strongly that working with and encouraging young people is key to the future success of our agricultural industry. For many years we have worked with colleges employing apprentices and engaged with Young Farmers Clubs.”

Alan stressed that the partnership with Plumpton College will be mutually beneficial. Students will gain experience operating the latest AGCO tractors and the industry will benefit from operators and engineers already familiar with state-of-the-art technology when they leave education and start work. Crawfords Group dealer staff will also have access to the college-based tractors for customer demonstrations and operator familiarisation on the college farm, and college facilities including the well-equipped meeting rooms will be used for staff and customer presentations and training.

Future career preparation

Regional Sales Manager and Valtra Brand Manager, James Parrett was instrumental in setting up the new partnership. He explained that the Crawfords Group already enjoyed a strong relationship with the college having supplied machinery and equipment. “We supplied two Manitou handlers and a Fendt 724 Vario tractor in recent years and most recently, supplied a new T175eV with Loader for farm use.  We have also gladly donated a large amount of PPE including clothing and wellington boots to make sure students had the correct equipment for working with the livestock.

“Training on outdated machines clearly wasn’t ideal preparation for students going on to work with modern contracting operations or on larger farms, so we approached AGCO for assistance putting together a three-year tractor deal.”

“Loaning these tractors will benefit Crawfords Group as much as the students,” observed Crawfords Territory Sales Manager and former Plumpton College student James Strivens. “Tractors used for driver training were the same ones that I drove as a student in 2010, and they had been at the college for several years then.

“It’s a good college and very successful. There are a wide range of soils, so students learn to establish crops in different situations; it’s in a great location to serve the agricultural community in the South-East, and there has been huge investment in new facilities in recent years including an impressive new pig unit. It’s good to be part of it and the new tractors will prepare students better for their future careers.”

Partnerships critical

Plumpton College Principal, Jeremy Kerswell is delighted with the agreement. “Global challenges and changes affecting food security and sustainability mean that there has never been a more important time for this college to be providing training and knowledge to those within land-based industries,” he stressed. “There is more interest than ever in our agricultural courses from both male and female students, hence our significant recent investment in our agricultural facilities at the college.

“Industry partnerships are critical. We have worked with Crawfords Group and other dealers for many years, but this long-term strategic partnership is different. The dealer has similar values to us, and we see it as a perfect match. Regular access to the latest machinery means that our students will be ‘current’, equipped with skills at the forefront of these technical advances and making them more attractive to modern farming operations and dealers.” 

Just what we need

One tractor will be based in the college training workshop, allowing students to learn about routine maintenance and daily checks, and the other two will be used for operator training on the college farm including basic driving and trailer handling experience on a designated site adjacent to the farmyard. The college farm has its own larger Valtra T5-series tractor too, supplied by Crawfords Group earlier this year, which does most of the field work including slurry applications.

“Our existing fleet of 18-year-old tractors for operator training is very different to what most students will use when they leave college or while working on farms as part of their practical experience,” commented Lecturer in Machinery Operation and Cropping, Clive Brickell. “The new Valtras are just what we need, and students will also receive extra training from the Crawfords Group technical specialists from time to time, including swapping the guidance system between tractors each time the fleet is updated. These are real, practical skills that are relevant to the industry. It’s an excellent opportunity for those attending our college.”

Ideal partnership

“This is what a college and industry partnership should look like,” Jeremy Kerswell concluded. “For Crawfords Group, getting future farm owners, managers and operators exposed to their kit and, for our students, the up-to-date knowledge and skills to help ensure their future success. The Crawfords Group team members are fabulous to work with, and always keen to support the education and learning needs of the agricultural industry.”