Former NPA chairman Richard Longthorp called for agriculture to be given more prominence in young people’s career development initiatives.
The Yorkshire farmer highlighted the importance of developing skills in agriculture at a breakfast attended by MPs and peers in Parliament on Wednesday. Mr Longthorp and NPA senior policy advisor Ed Barker represented the NPA at a roundtable event hosted by the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Eggs, Pigs and Poultry in the House of Commons, with Peers and MPs from across the political spectrum in attendance.
The theme was ‘Skills to feed nation’, a critical issue as the UK prepares for a new post-Brexit immigration policy that will make it harder to access workers from the EU.
Mr Longthorp, who has been involved in skills development for the industry for many years initially setting up a training business with other pig farmers and then chairing the Pig Industry Skills Strategy, highlighted the NPA’s desire to help promote skills in the pig sector.
He recommended making agriculture a STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Maths) project, encouraging more hands-on training and experience among young people.
He said: “Whilst higher education provision in agriculture and horticulture is recognised as a high-cost subject, there is considerable variation in practice, and understanding, about whether or not they are classified as a STEM subjects.
“This classification is important in helping proper attention to be given to agriculture and horticulture in schools, and in prompting people from different backgrounds and disciplines to consider careers in the industry.”
The idea was enthusiastically picked up by the industry representatives and politicians, with universal agreement that it should be followed up as a priority policy area. The APPG is now going to write to the Skills Minister, Anne Milton, with a call to action from MPs and Peers make agriculture a STEM subject.
“We believe that a time of uncertainty for all of our sectors, and with ongoing difficulties of the labour market, acquiring the STEM classification could help introduce young people to a career in agriculture, with all its variety and opportunities that come with it,” Ed said.