Agriculture champions: interim discussion document

A discussion document from the four champions of agriculture, detailing their emerging thinking on potential ideas for a future agriculture strategy.

Annex A

Detailed ideas on theme 5: Illustrating the huge opportunities for careers in the rural sector

1. In school

If we are going to get more teenagers and families interested in rural careers for all, and a subject in parity with other Highers, then there is a need for:

  • A coordinated approach to support Skills for Work so that there is genuinely a "Career for All". Illustrate the very large number of qualifications which can emanate from a Rural Skills Course.
  • A coordinated approach to identify best practice at schools teaching Rural Skills at Level 4 so that it can be rolled out nationally.
  • A method of supporting regions such as Aberdeenshire, Dumfries & Galloway who are piloting Rural Skills at schools. Continue to develop a National Progression Award at Level 5 at schools so that it can be rolled out nationally.

At present, it has been difficult to justify a Foundation Apprenticeship in Rural Skills at schools . The focus should be on building on Rural Skills Level 4 and development of Rural and Environmental Studies Level 5 but to build a Needs Analysis for a Foundation Apprenticeship when appropriate.

Similarly it has been difficult to justify Graduate Apprenticeships for agriculture, Forestry, and other land-based industries. The focus should be on increased vocational training and building a Needs Analysis for a Graduate Apprenticeship when appropriate.

Also Research organisations need to work with colleges to develop a national science education resource with the funding they have obtained.

2. Career Pathways

A lot of work has gone in to creating a structure through which businesses can liaise with schools to illustrate career opportunities through the 21 Regional leads and further council leads. Some excellent work has already been done at primary and secondary schools on where food comes from and the possible careers in Food and Drink.

There are some excellent examples in Moray and Dumfries & Galloway on what is possible. Further initiatives will enhance this, but it is still very regional and, because mainly microbusinesses are involved, there is a lack of real rural involvement in many of these Regional and Council leads . There is now a variety of Ambassadors, ranging from STEM Ambassadors to RHET volunteers to Forestry Ambassadors to Lantra Champions.

There is a need:

  • to work with the various initiatives to leverage off them.
  • to encourage more industry involvement at the 21 Regional Leads and to coordinate activities.
  • for Ambassadors / Teachers need to be trained in what the career possibilities are.
  • to develop a Toolkit for Ambassadors to illustrate course content, qualifications, career opportunities.
  • for videos showing career opportunities, which have already been made by My World of Work, Scottish Association of Young Farmers Clubs, Lantra, Chartered Institute of Forestry, to be coordinated to ensure consistency and availability.
  • for more detailed labour market intelligence for all of the sectors involved.

3. 16 year old school leaver.

Access to rural skills: 'Pre-Apprenticeship'

Currently there is no 'pre-apprenticeship' precedent in any sector in Scotland. There is however a well-established internship programme run by Ringlink which has been in existence since 2013. It is well supported by the industry, has a good attainment record and was oversubscribed three times in 2017/18. There is no automatic employment after the course, but the track record of participants in finding positions is good.

Funding has come from various sources such as Trusts, Councils and AHDB – in other words it does not have sustainable long term funding. Actions to consider:

  • to continue with the development of the principle of Pre Apprenticeship.
  • to explore how best to fund it sustainably including the potential for wider industry funding.
  • to explore how to develop a new qualification.
  • to develop partnership working to roll it out nationally.


There has been a leveling out in the numbers taking Modern Apprenticeships in land-based subjects in recent years. There has been a lack of investment in this area with little or no training done north of the Central belt. Actions to consider:

  • to roll out nationally with existing frameworks and National Occupational Standards, as they are well established. Continue with the development of the new Technical Apprenticeship.
  • to expand the Rural Skills Modern Apprenticeship with new pathways as well as estate maintenance and environmental management.
  • to establish centres of expertise where skills training is done as well as research and imaginative training methods are used.
  • to re-examine costs of training to ensure initiatives are fully costed.
  • to ensure self employment skills are included.
  • to recruit new trainers/instructors/assessors/verifiers.

Most rural businesses are microbusinesses with insufficient time for mentoring and supervision of an apprentice, not to mention issues of lack of profitability. For this reason Shared Apprenticeships need to be considered . There are two potential pilots with Opportunity North East ( ONE) and Fife Rural Skills Initiative, which are fairly far advanced. Actions to consider:

  • Support for the two pilots.
  • Ensuring a compliant but practical model.
  • Exploring further possibilities nationally and coordinating them.
  • Building Rural Skills pathways to ensure employability all year.
  • Requesting funding for coordination to assist compliance and success.


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