Ringing the changes for farming’s future

Holly Kennedy's advice is to get stuck into the pre-apprenticeship scheme.

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Farming is looking to the future, with training and development supported by the Scottish Machinery Rings Association (SMRA).

All nine machinery rings across Scotland offer diverse training courses focused on skills development and career opportunities for new entrants and career changers in the post-pandemic world.

Courses can be provided on a range of short courses such as health and safety, first aid and forklift operation, pesticides, chainsaw, ATVs and Driver CPC.

But machinery rings are also looking to support new entrants to farming and land-based industries.

In 2019, the land-based pre-apprenticeship pilot programme was launched, involving three machinery rings – Ringlink Scotland, Tarff Valley Services and Borders Machinery Ring.

SMRA vice chairman Andrew Moir explained: ‘Following recent Scottish Government announcements to support economic recovery with a key focus on skills development for young people, displaced workers and career changers, the Scottish machinery rings can assist with these new initiatives.

‘Supporting various industry sectors such as construction, haulage, forestry, agriculture, horticulture, estates and public authorities means the SMRA is well placed to provide training to a wide range of businesses and indeed to those individuals considering a career change or simply looking to enhance their skill set for the future.’

Recruitment for the 2021 land-based pre-apprenticeship is underway, with a target of recruiting up to 60 pre-apprentices throughout Scotland. Last year the programme supported 45 pre-apprentices in a programme designed to ensure safe delivery in accordance with Covid-19 guidance.

Michael Bayne, manager of Borders Machinery Ring, added: ‘The format of the Land-Based Pre-Apprenticeship is designed to support new entrants into the rural sector. To date over 50 per cent of participants are from non-agricultural backgrounds and it provides an ideal pathway of progression onto Modern Apprenticeships or college on completion.’

The programme is delivered in two stages, firstly including an induction to various agricultural and land-based practices involving tuition on tractor driving, rough terrain telescopic forklift, first-aid, manual handling, health and safety risk assessments and undertaking the Certificate of Work Readiness qualification (SCQF4).

The second stage involves six month’s full-time employment on a rural mentor business which allows the pre-apprentice to develop their skills, gain vital work experience and expand their knowledge.

Holly Kennedy, a past pre-apprentice, summed up the experience by saying: ‘It’s the best way to get into the industry – don’t hesitate – just do it.’

To find out more visit www.scottishmachineryrings.co.uk.