Dairy Skills Initiative launched in Dumfries and Galloway

An innovative project has been launched in Dumfries and Galloway to help young people into work while addressing skills shortages within the local dairy sector.

The ‘Dairy Skills Initiative’ is a unique partnership involving Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) NFU Scotland, Lantra, Dumfries and Galloway Employment TAP and Skills Development Scotland. It offers school leavers with no previous farm experience 12 week placements on local dairy farms, at no cost to the host farmers.

Trainees will get involved in the wide range of practical work involved in running a busy dairy farm. On successful completion of their placement they will achieve a ‘Certificate of Work Readiness’ and references to help them move into employment. There may also be opportunities for progression to an Agricultural Modern Apprenticeship.

Host farmers will have the benefit of working with a young trainee, while the wider local dairy sector will benefit from an increase in ‘work ready’ individuals with references.

SRUC’s Work-based Learning Manager Brian Williams explained: “This is a unique initiative that recognises the vital importance of practical skills training to the success of the farming industry.

“We’re seeking males and females of school leaving age and the only prerequisite is that they are enthusiastic about becoming involved in dairy farming. They certainly won’t be just stuck behind a brush during their placements – dairy farming is becoming increasingly technical nowadays and trainees will have the chance to get involved in a wide range of practical tasks, helping them build their confidence and gain the skills employers are looking for.”

Brian stressed the importance of buy-in from local dairy farms. “Without their input, the initiative simple won’t work, so we hope local farms will see the benefits to themselves and the wider industry and really get behind it by taking on a young trainee,” he said.

Gary Mitchel, Chairman of the NFUS Milk Committee, is a passionate advocate of attracting more young people into the dairy sector. He said: “The Scottish dairy sector has significant opportunities to grow as an integral part of a competitive dairy supply chain in the global and UK market, but we must be competitive and progressive, which means we must attract, train and nurture new recruits to a career in an exciting, progressive and professional sector. This initiative is a great opportunity to demonstrate to young people, who may have never considered dairy, to see a genuine well paid and attractive career opportunity in the local region.”

Lantra Scotland’s Business Development Manager, Kevin Patrick, welcomed the initiative, saying: “There are some fantastic opportunities for young people to work in the land-based sector in Scotland. Lantra and NFUS are working hard to improve awareness and understanding of opportunities in agriculture, and to address potential skills shortages. SRUC’s Dairy Skills Initiative, with active support from key partners, is a very exciting development and will help improve understanding of the technical nature of modern dairy farming, and awareness of related career opportunities, across Dumfries and Galloway. Crucially, it will also introduce vocational skills, offer progression opportunities such as a Modern Apprenticeship, and significantly improve the overall employability of participants.”

Dawn Redpath, Dumfries and Galloway Council’s Employability and Skills Manager said: “Dumfries and Galloway Council is delighted to be able to work with partners on such a creative initiative. As a Council we recognise the importance of being able to provide a wide range of career opportunities in sectors that have sustainable job prospects and the dairy industry is an excellent example of this. Through our Employment TAP (Total Access Point) we are also able to support employers who want to help young people enter careers in the dairy industry whilst ensuring that the young people are appropriately trained and are gaining up to date skills in a live working environment.”

Local dairy farmers and schools have been approached about the partnership and the Skills Development Scotland’s Employability Fund is supporting 40 placements to begin this September. Further placement will be available in early 2015. The project is also being supported by the Scottish Dairy Hub, which works to support Scottish dairy farmers.

It is hoped skills initiatives can be launched in other farming sectors and other areas of Scotland in the future.

Farmers or young people interested in finding our more should contact Brian Williams on 01505 864800 ext 103 or email brian.williams@sruc.ac.uk or Stuart Martin on 07500766083 (stuart.martin@dairyco.ahdb.org.uk).