AHDB has teamed up with the National Farmers Union (NFU) and industry employers to create criteria for two farming apprenticeships – crop technician and stockperson. A third set of standards for a packhouse line leader is also underway.

The aim is to bring together technical knowledge from a training provider with practical on-the-job learning, to ensure the apprentice is a fully competent employee when they qualify.

And as the new style apprenticeships are industry-led, the standards of competency are set by those doing the recruiting.

One key and novel element of these apprenticeships is the inclusion of ‘Behaviours’ alongside the more traditional ‘knowledge’ and ‘skills’ – helping build conducts that can lead workers to be more successful in the future.

Richard Longthorp, who chairs the Agricultural Trailblazer Employer Group, said the new structure to the standards will be hugely beneficial to industry.

He added: “Trailblazer might not be a word people normally associate with the dry nature of education and skills policy, but with these new Trailblazer Apprenticeships, I genuinely believe we have made a really exciting shift in policy.

“We have gone from a top-down approach with Whitehall ‘Suits’ deciding what apprenticeships should look like, to where we are now – a bottom up approach with industry making the decisions.

“These standards were developed by those at the sharp end in farm business and then taken to representatives from across the industry and its organisations for consultation.”

The apprenticeships are open to all industry businesses and depending on the size of your business, the training will either be funded by the Apprenticeship levy or by government (between 90 – 100 per cent).

Any Trailblazer Apprenticeship has a minimum duration of 12 months, but some can take up to 30 months, depending on the course level, apprentice and employer.

Gloucestershire-based mixed farmer Chris Padfield has previously utilised the apprenticeship scheme and is looking forward to engaging with the scheme.

He said: “I’m looking forward to getting involved with the Trailblazers Apprenticeships as they will allow me to have greater control of the relevant skills that the individual needs to do a good job.

“The main reason I like this new initiative is that I will be involved with the apprentice at the start of their lifelong learning journey. I will be able to help shape the future of the agricultural industry by ensuring the development of professional and personal skills, which can be transferred to any other employment.”

NFU deputy president Guy Smith said: “When you consider the exciting technical advances most of us are seeing on farms, from crop scanning drones to robot milking machines, it’s clear that agriculture is an incredibly innovative and rewarding sector to pursue a career in. There has never been a more important time to get involved in an industry that helps to provide the nation with safe, traceable and affordable food.

“Apprenticeships play a huge role in attracting new talent to the farming industry as well as offering farmers a great way to recruit new people and develop their skills, which enables farm businesses to continue to be productive, profitable and progressive.”

Richard added: “It is now down to the industry to make full use of the standards to ensure all members of our workforce have the right behaviours, skills and knowledge.

“They must be fit to face the undoubted challenges ahead and form a world-class, world-leading agriculture industry that is a career of choice for people entering the workplace.”

To help understand the system, AHDB has created a number of new support tools on its website – which includes a checklist for potential employers.

To find out more visit https://www.ahdb.org.uk/trailblazer-apprenticeships