Scottish Association of Young Farmers Clubs - board ready training: survey report

This report presents the findings of a survey carried out for the Scottish Associations of Young Farmers Clubs.

Executive Summary


This research was carried out to inform the creation and delivery of a bespoke training programme for current and future members of the Scottish Association of Young Farmers Clubs (SAYFC) board. In their final report, the Women in Agriculture Taskforce (2019) recommended supporting women and new entrants into agriculture and providing training to address the skills gaps they face. A 2017 report on women in farming and the agriculture sector found that new entrants who were women and who accessed continuous professional development training through their employer were able to apply these new skills on their farms.

The (SAYFC) is a membership organisation for young people who live and work in rural Scotland[1]. Its vision is to ensure that young people in rural Scotland are supported to reach their full potential. The SAYFC asked the Scottish Government to carry out a survey of young people who currently or have previously sat on their national board. The board has responsibility for the organisation, its reputation and finances. There are around 14 people on the board each year and membership changes yearly (see section 1.2). Young people aged 14 to 30 are eligible to join the board.

The purpose of the research was to understand the training needs of SAYFC board members. Previous board members were included in this research to find out what training they felt they would have benefitted from whilst in their role. This information will be used to create a tailored training programme for current and future board members, to give them the skills they need to succeed on the board, and to support their own personal development. SAYFC board membership changes every year, and it is important to understand the board’s training needs to allow future members to feel fully supported.


A short online survey was sent to current and previous SAYFC board members (from 2021/22, 2020/21 and 2019/2020). The survey was sent to a small population of 28 members who were all 18 years or older. A total of 18 responded, achieving a 64% response rate. Respondents were provided with a privacy notice (Annex A) to ensure they understood how their data would be used. The data was collected and analysed and is presented in section 4 of the report.

Key Findings

Respondent profile

The majority of respondents to the survey were current Scottish Association of Young Farmers Clubs (SAYFC) board members (72%) and just under a third (28%) were previous members from 2021/22 or 2019/20. Current respondents are part way through their time on the board as its membership changes yearly.

Over half (59%) of respondents were female and just under half (41%) were male. The majority (78%) of respondents were aged 26-30.

Board roles and motivations for joining the board

Respondents held a range of roles and the survey was broadly representative of the board. The most common motivations respondents gave for becoming a SAYFC board member were for personal development and networking. For example, the majority (92%) of current board members saw joining the board as an opportunity to develop themselves, whilst previous board members saw it as an opportunity to socialise (50%) or network (100%).

SAYFC board members felt passionate about being part of the board, as a way for them to give back to the organisation and continue its legacy. However, half (50%) of the survey respondents felt that their role on the SAYFC board did not meet their expectations. Reasons given for this included: over-reliance on board members, the challenges of managing a voluntary role alongside other commitments and difficulties working with SAYFC staff.

Confidence when joining the board

Before starting their roles, current and previous board members mostly felt ‘slightly clear’ on what being on the board would involve (41%).

Just over half (53%) of respondents felt they had ‘a little’ experience that prepared them for becoming a member of the SAYFC board. This was through their own previous experiences, for example at work, or in other SAYFC roles. Just under half (41%) of respondents felt ‘prepared’ when taking on their role on the SAYFC board.

Current and previous board members were most likely to feel ‘slightly confident’ (41%) when starting their role on the SAYFC board. Almost a third (29%) felt ‘not very confident’, and around a quarter (24%) felt ‘confident’. Only 6% felt ‘very confident’. Training, mentoring and previous experience helped respondents to feel confident.

Survey respondents highlighted issues such as clarity about their role before joining the SAYFC board and managing the role alongside other commitments.


Respondents rated the training they have received while on the SAYFC board highly, and the majority (75%) felt it had a positive impact. All previous SAYFC board members had received support from SAYFC staff (100%) and the majority (69%) of current members have also received staff support so far. Respondents identified that further training on a wide range of topics, for example leadership training and managing difficult conversations, would be helpful. Throughout the survey, mentoring was mentioned as something respondents found helpful and would like more of.

Overall, the results show the passion that both current and previous respondents have for the SAYFC, and that they feel contributing through the board is an important way of giving back and continuing its legacy. Board members want their opinions to be heard and would benefit from training that will further develop them in their SAYFC board roles but more widely in terms of their personal development. Training provided to board members was generally received well and board members are keen to receive more. Mentoring is popular, with most who received it finding it helpful and others wanting more of it.

However, respondents did raise concerns about their experiences of sitting on the board, including managing their role alongside other commitments. The SAYFC board’s over-reliance on members operating on a voluntary basis also posed a challenge. Respondents would like to engage more with SAYFC staff and work more closely with them.

Next Steps and Recommendations

The survey results will be utilised by the SAYFC to create a training programme for current and future board members, taking into account their views and training needs. Further issues raised by respondents, including the role of voluntary board members within the organisation, should also be considered and acted on appropriately.

To support this, training for SAYFC board members should aim to equip them with the necessary skills, knowledge and support to fulfil their roles on the board, feel confident and empowered to take on responsibility, make decisions and act as leaders. Going forward, young people on the board will benefit from learning from other board members’ experience, contracting tailored training courses and utilising the experience of SAYFC staff.

To support this work, the SAYFC should think about developing a monitoring and evaluation framework to ensure any training that is provided is relevant and of use to current and future board members.

The skills that young people gain in taking on a board role within the SAYFC should enable them to progress their careers, and contribute more widely to their lives and work in rural Scotland.



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