Flexible and joined up approach is required to bridge the labour and skills gaps

  • The Government needs to take a flexible and joined-up approach to tackle the complex workforce issues in the land-based sector, Lantra has told a committee of MPs

Speaking before the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Committee today (16 January), Lantra’s Chair of Trustees, Dr David Llewellyn CBE, provided insights into the ways in which labour shortages can be addressed, to ensure that the land-based sector is resilient to the challenges it faces now and in the future.

An inquiry by the Committee, which is chaired by Sir Robert Goodwill MP, is exploring the relationship between education and the land-based industries and whether learners are being equipped with necessary skills and knowledge. The inquiry is also considering careers and what more can be done to facilitate new entrants into the land-based sector.

Dr Llewellyn, who was also a member of the Independent Review of Labour Shortages in the Food Supply Chain, told MPs, “It is vital that we provide a skilled workforce and bring new entrants into a sector that is central to meeting the twin challenges of food security and climate change”.

“Recent research tells us that apprenticeships are under-utilised in the land-based industries, and, with the right approach for a sector that is dominated by micro- and small businesses, there is every prospect that new entrants could be brought into the workforce’’.

‘’With support from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Department for Education, Lantra could trial new methods for the delivery of apprenticeship training, whether that is via a flexible approach to full apprenticeship programmes or experimenting with shorter, work-ready training over a 6-month period’’.

‘’Establishing an intermediary body in agriculture, may be a way to relieve small businesses of the employment and administrative burden of employing trainees and apprentices, which will address many of the barriers that prevent small businesses from taking them on.’’

‘’In parallel, we need to ensure that our current workforce has up-to-date skills and knowledge to operate safely, effectively and sustainably. Short courses are a preferred way for small businesses to access training because of their time efficiency and flexibility. It is sometimes a challenge for people to spend time away from their businesses, so the provision of targeted and specialised learning over 1-5 days can better meet the needs of employers and employees.’’

‘’There is industry backing for a reformed apprenticeship levy in England, that would also support other types of training and, in particular, the increased use of short-course training. Recent reports that around £96m of apprenticeship levy and Department for Education funds were returned, unspent, to the Treasury for general expenditure in the 2022/23 financial year demonstrate that there is scope for this reform.’’

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