Industry ‘Champions’ to Support New Skills Strategy

UK - Prominent producers and industry figureheads are forming the core of a skills strategy, the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board has announced.
calendar icon 7 November 2013
clock icon 4 minute read

A beef farmer from Gloucestershire, McCain Foods associate director of agriculture, a Cornish dairy farmer, an award-winning pig manager from North Yorkshire and a visiting lecturer at the School of Horticulture, will help deliver a skills strategy to boost farming. 

They are the first ‘Skills Champions’ (see below) selected from across the agriculture spectrum to help deliver a new cross-industry skills strategy due to be launched at a high level skills summit in London, tomorrow (Charing Cross Hotel – Weds 6 November 2pm).

The strategy has been driven by the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) and championed by the cross-industry AgriSkills Forum. It is the levy board’s response to recommendations, made in the recently unveiled Agri-Tech Strategy, the Future of Farming Review and by the Farming Regulation Taskforce, for AHDB to lead a more coordinated approach to skills development and the attainment of greater industry professionalism.

Aimed at promoting lifelong learning and skills on a cross-industry scale, the strategy launch is being supported with key presentations by the National Farmers Union (NFU), leading industry skills bodies Landex (Land Based Colleges Aspiring to Excellence) and LANTRA (UK Sector Skills Council for land-based and environmental industries), as well as AHDB and government.

These industry leaders will be supported by the Skills Champions in launching the strategy and promoting its delivery on the ground. These Champions include:

  • Paul Westaway Runs the 230-head Melview Farming business in Gloucestershire, with his wife Kirsty. They have a herd of Pedigree Aberdeen Angus and also finish Angus/Holstein Friesian heifers and pure Holstein bulls on contract to Blade Farming. Prior to farming, Paul gained extensive experience in the supply chain as a butcher and in the breeding industry.
  • Graham Finn Graham is the associate director of agriculture for McCain Foods Ltd. Graham is passionate about getting new entrants engaged in the potato industry and has strong links with Askham Bryan College, York.
  • Andrew Brewer Andrew has more than 600 spring calving cows on his 290ha family farm near St Columb, in Cornwall. He also grows fodder beet. Andrew is known for his use of discussion groups, strategic business planning workshops run by AHDB’s dairy division (DairyCo) and overseas travel to continually grow his business.
  • Tony Wright Manager at Shedden Farms, North Yorkshire. This inspirational pig manager will be presented with the BPEX 2013 Trainee of the Year Award due to be announced at a House of Commons reception on Tuesday 5 November (4pm). Tony also received a special Student of the Year Award on graduating from the BPEX Professional Manager’s Development Scheme, earlier this year.
  • Martin Emmett Martin is currently visiting lecturer at the School of Horticulture, Royal Botanic Gardens, in Kew. He is also part-time director of Binsted Nursery and Walberton Nursery and runs a horticultural training consultancy.

The AgriSkills Forum management group finalised the strategy and its five delivery work streams following wide consultation with the industry, which was overseen by AHDB during August and September.

“Agri-food is now seen by government and others as one of the UK’s key drivers on the road to economic recovery, not only feeding a growing population but also exporting home-grown products all over the world,” said management group chairman Richard Longthorp.

“This new-found economic importance is characterised by farm businesses and professionals that are vibrant, dynamic, driven by science, technology and innovation and, most critically, are highly skilled and motivated.

“Our Skills Champions will play a key role in helping us come together as a united industry to promote the importance of skills and industry wide professionalism so that we can continue to attract bright new entrants who demand an exciting and fulfilling career.”

AHDB Chief Executive Tom Taylor pointed to the critical role to be played by partnership working if the strategy is to deliver the skills needed by the food and farming industry in the 21st Century:

“Looking across the supply chain and beyond to the training and knowledge specialists, the Skills Councils, regulators and government, it’s vital that all parties work together to make this new industry vision of professionalism come to life to serve both the industry and the public well into the future.”


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