Two Reaseheath agriculture apprentices are being supported by supermarket chain Morrisons through its Apprenticeship Transfer Levy funding.
Chloe Cooper and Nick Hartland both work on Cheshire farms and are studying for their Level 2 Stock Person’s Apprenticeship. Their training fees are being met out of a £2 million fund which the retailer has made available annually as part of its mission to further support the next generation of farmers.
Although both are employed on farms which belong to the UK Arla farming co-operative, which provides milk to Morrisons, the funding is on offer to all farming employers whether they supply the retailer or not.
The apprentices have one study day a week and spend the rest of their time in paid employment, gaining practical skills and experience at their workplace. As they are supported by Morrisons, they will also gain insight into the retail sector through behind-the-scenes visits when Covid restrictions allow.
Chloe, 19, is one of eight employees on Reaseheath’s campus farm and is receiving a broad base of experience across the college’s dairy, beef, sheep and arable units. She previously studied for a Level 2 Diploma in Agriculture at Reaseheath and is following in the footsteps of her father and grandfather, who have both worked in agriculture.
In the next few weeks she will gain hands-on experience of lambing and will help to introduce the dairy cows to the college’s new automated milking system, which will operate alongside the conventional milking parlour and allow students to compare both systems.
Chloe says: “Agriculture is a very diverse industry and an apprenticeship can open the door to a wide range of opportunities. Learning new skills is really satisfying and I’m enjoying gaining a deeper understanding of how food is produced.”
Reaseheath’s Farm Manager Ed Parrish comments: “We are delighted that Morrisons is supporting the training of our own and other agriculture apprentices through its transfer levy scheme. Chloe has become an indispensable member of our team and is typical of the keen new talent we are preparing for entry into the industry.”
Nick, 31, has a non-farming background but was drawn to the industry after helping on a calf rearing unit in New Zealand. He is the only staff member on a family run dairy farm on the Bolesworth Estate, Tattenhall, and his main duties are milking the 300 strong dairy herd and calf management.
This is another forward thinking business which is about to convert from traditional to robotic milking and Nick will play a key role in ensuring the transition goes smoothly.
Farm Manager Matt Scott says: “We saw Nick’s relative lack of experience as a benefit, as we could train him in our way of working. Being able to take on a Morrisons supported apprentice has been a huge help, as it’s given us the opportunity to look to the future and invest in a staff member.”
Nick adds: “This apprenticeship has been a great opportunity for me and I’m excited at being at the forefront of new technology. I enjoy learning the theory behind my practical work so it’s good to be on a programme which has both elements, and I’m well supported on farm.”
Morrisons is British farming’s biggest single customer and works with almost 3,000 British livestock farmers and growers. As an employer who pays the apprenticeship levy, the retailer has the option to transfer up to 25% of its annual apprenticeship levy funds to other levy paying or non-levy paying employers. It has chosen to transfer funding to help address the skills issues facing the farming community, and encourage fresh talent into the industry.
The initiative follows a report from The Prince’s Countryside Fund revealing that the average age of UK farmers is 59 and that only 3% of UK farmers are under the age of 35. The sector is also facing unprecedented technological change such as the use of robotics and artificial intelligence in farm and environmental management. This has increased demand for well qualified, business aware and technically skilled young professionals.
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