Why the onus is on us to inspire the next generation to pursue an agricultural career

Georgina Crayford is a senior adviser for the NPA

In a recent report setting out proposals for the UK’s post-Brexit immigration policy, the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) concluded that there should be ‘no explicit work migration route for low-skilled workers’. The NPA team was extremely disappointed at this.

We, along with many of the other UK farming bodies, have been shouting almost until we’re blue in the face about the importance of access to EU migrant workers to farming businesses. The resounding message when it comes to farm labour was – we’re on our own.

Now, more than ever, it is crucial that as an industry we make a concerted effort to engage with the next generation, to encourage them to consider a career in agriculture. The onus is on us and the bleak reality is that if we don’t do something now, there will be no staff to keep our pig units running.

The formation of an industry coalition to develop and deliver a new agriculture skills strategy, which our very own Richard Longthorp has been instrumental in, is welcome news. But every pig producer should take responsibility for future- proofing this sector. And it need only cost you two hours of your time.

I have actively promoted IGD’s Feeding Britain’s Future schools programme, which places volunteers into secondary schools to take part in workshops aimed at showcasing the variety of job roles available in the food and grocery sector.

I would imagine that for the majority of schoolchildren, a career in agriculture is not something that has crossed their minds.

The Feeding Britain’s Future programme provides children with the opportunity to speak to a farm manager, a livestock nutritionist, an agricultural policy adviser or a supply chain fieldsperson.

I’ve volunteered for a workshop at a local school – the experience was hugely rewarding. You just sign up, turn up and be prepared to talk about your career.

Worryingly, I’ve heard that more and more pig units are closing their doors to vet students and work experience students.

I appreciate that people are trying to protect themselves from featuring in the next animal rights exposé. But if the next generation are refused the opportunity to experience pig production first-hand, then how can we expect them to want to pursue a career with us?

Email [email protected] to get involved.

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