The next generation

News Posted 04/01/19
How can agriculture bridge the gap between young people in search of an interesting career and farmers needing a hand with 21st century issues?

Overwhelmed by the pace of tech, data and mechanical developments within the agricultural industry? Find a Millennial to help!

Educational institutions and banks are working to bring together farmers and young people, in the hope of resolving issues on both sides – providing farms with a fresh approach to 21st century issues and young people with an absorbing career.

Young people with qualifications not normally associated with agriculture are being urged to consider taking a job in farming, with one farmer in the Midlands taking on a maths graduate to help analyse the data, which flows at an increasingly fast rate into the farm’s everyday life.

Even financial institutions are getting involved. Barclays has taken on 12 apprentices in the past 18 months, to work towards becoming agricultural bank managers – boosting the team of 150 specialists it already has across the UK. Their role is to support farmers and land owners in making their business work more efficiently.

The need to look to the next generation within agriculture is becoming urgent. Statistics show an ageing population, with the number of farmers aged over 65 increasing by 70 per cent in the last decade. Barclays national MD of agriculture Mark Suthern says: “British farmers have proven time and again their ability to diversify, innovate and weather tricky economic conditions, so the skill and experiences the older generation can bring are vital. But the next generation needs to learn the skills to carry businesses forward in the future.”

One of the roles of the bank’s agricultural managers is to help guide farmers through the difficult decisions over succession planning – who takes over the running of the business when the time comes to retire. They also support farmers in keeping up with the rapid pace of technological and other advances, like the use of robotics to overcome labour shortages and how technology can increase yields and reduce costs.

On the other side, Mr Suthern is also keen to promote prospects for young people within farming. He said: “Research has shown that only three per cent of Millennials nationally have considered farming as a career and most of those come from a farming background. There’s a wealth of talent out there and the message needs to be “take a look at what agriculture can offer – a lovely environment to work in, an interesting job and a sense of purpose in helping to feed the nation”.

He urged young people to investigate a career in agriculture by approaching a college or university with links to the industry and said the bank would always consider requests from young people for funding to set up farm-related businesses.

“Millennials have a refreshing approach to career prospects, unafraid to try something different. We have helped them set up share farming and food-producing schemes nationally and are always happy to give advice,” Mr Suthern said.

Farming has adopted an unlikely champion, in the shape of former boy band star JB Gill, who gave up the glittering career and screaming girl fans in 2013 and took over a smallholding in Kent. Since then, he has developed the business and become an established member of the local farming community.

He said: “There are a lot of misconceptions among young people about what a career in agriculture really means. It’s hard, physical work, so it keeps you fit. You get to work with animals, you’re your own boss and you can keep up with the trends by posting everything on Instagram for everyone else to see.

“The farming community is really welcoming, providing newcomers with knowledge on everything from tending to animals to financial advice. You don’t need to have your own land to work in agriculture, there are many options from farm management through to the service industries and I would encourage anyone interested to give it some serious consideration – it’s a life like no other!”

Pictured: JB Gill

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