Plumpton College’s new Principal, Jeremy Kerswell has a strong background in agricultural education. He replaced Des Lambert, who had been Principal at the college for the past 14 years. After obtaining a degree in animal science at Reading University, Jeremy’s first experience in education was at Brinsbury College. He has since been employed in agricultural colleges around the UK, including Moulton, Cannington and, as head of agriculture, countryside, animal management and fisheries at Hadlow, during its growth period.
His portfolio is impressive to say the least, with numbers of agriculture students growing tenfold during his time at Cannington College in Somerset, named as the fastest growing agricultural provision in the country.
Now, after being at Plumpton College since last October, Jeremy is relishing the opportunity to maintain and further develop its reputation and specialist facilities.
The college offers strong provision for agricultural and land based study with a 600 strong flock of breeding ewes, an extensive beef unit, a 300 cow dairy, an intensive pig unit and an arable enterprise on a modern, well equipped farm.
Jeremy said: “The 2,000 acre college estate is among one of the college’s greatest assets. It demonstrates a wide range of ecological diversity and land use and is extensively used for conservation, land management and leisure activities, as well as commercial farming.
Some 18 different subject areas of study are available, ranging from countryside and environment, machinery and engineering, fish and game management to floristry, agriculture, horticulture, the equine provision, animal care, metalsmithing, forestry and arboriculture, to outdoor adventurous activities and the unique wine courses. The estate provides excellent practical and demonstration facilities for students, with real life commercial experience on one of the best college farms in the country.”
Jeremy’s mission for the college is very clear, that it should be producing students capable of driving the necessary change in the industry over the next thirty years.
He has ambitious plans, not only to maintain Plumpton’s excellence but also to deliver growth. He is keen that the college continues to recruit students from across the region.
The land based sector has identified a need for nearly 600,000 young people to enter the profession within the next ten years. The college is pleased to welcome more students than ever from non-farming backgrounds, as well as a higher percentage of female students and those with excellent academic qualifications.
Jeremy believes these students will be able to tackle the challenges ahead. He said: “Change in the industry is necessary in terms of the technological revolution we are currently experiencing. Young people are demonstrating just how astute they are in recognising that, despite many issues, there are a lot of job opportunities. They recognise some of those ancillary roles require highly skilled, business minded people to work in a rewarding and well paid sector with good progression opportunities. There’s a greater need than ever before for highly skilled people to enter the industry and therefore studying in this setting is an exciting prospect.”
He is confident that the sector will emerge from the changes stronger and able to best cope with the developments.
With nearly 100% of Plumpton’s agriculture students progressing into agricultural related employment straight after graduation, business management is an integral part of their curriculum. All students are involved in the commercial operations on the farm, learning the basic principles before being offered the opportunity to focus on the subject of most interest, from arable and livestock to farm diversification, or by working in the college’s new dairy unit, offering cheese, butter and yoghurt making facilities.
The college is keen to constantly evolve their resources to meet the needs of the rapidly changing sector and have introduced dynamic and exciting ways to teach, both within agriculture and other study programmes. A strong teaching staff with extensive international, research and industry expertise complements the student support offered to teaching and learning study programmes.
Plumpton also invites school visits to the Children’s Rural Education Centre, hosting hundreds of visits annually. They also cater for 14-16 year olds who can choose from a range of land based GCSE equivalents while still at school, with study pathways and progression routes, allowing a career choice best suited to the student.
Education at the college stretches from these 14-16 school programmes through post 16 school entry and introductory levels, Diploma courses at Levels 2 and 3 to Foundation Degree, BSc Degree level provision to the unique Master’s Degree in Wine and offers an inclusive programme for everyone.
Student provision includes accommodation on campus at the main college location in the centre of the South Downs National Park, a range of bursaries and loans, subsided transport within Sussex, pastoral provision and a lively social calendar.
The college is situated only six miles from Lewes and nine miles from Brighton. Major transport routes are within easy reach and London is only an hour away, with Gatwick airport close by. The college has specialist out-centres based at Brighton, Battle, Flimwell and Snowdonia, North Wales.
Plumpton College offers a determined purpose to continue to meet not only the needs of the students but of their employers and the rural community, with a wide range of apprenticeship packages and is also keen to build on relationships with employers by supplying them with a highly trained and focussed workforce.
New courses and training opportunities are provided which meet industry demand, with the college being home to the Sussex Rural Business Centre, which also offers short courses and bespoke training for employers to identify solutions to grow their business. “The work of our business centre is pivotal to the future of the sector in the way it can actively support businesses to grow and develop,” said Jeremy.
The college has just launched a new pre-apprenticeship programme, known as a land based traineeship, where employers and young people interested in apprenticeships can try it out from six weeks to six months, before making any commitment. This helps young people find out how an apprenticeship would benefit them educationally and gives employers the opportunity to see how taking on an apprentice can add value to their business.
Jeremy is enthusiastic about the college’s bright future: “I’ve learnt to look at things very positively and recognise that with every challenge comes more opportunity. Here at Plumpton College we have opportunities to grow, to develop, to progress and, above all, to produce even more highly employable students for the future and to be the driving force to this country’s agrifood and land based sectors.”