Laurencekirk-based co-operative Ringlink yesterday secured £39,000 of government funding to expand its farm apprentice programme and create a training template which can be rolled out across Scotland.
Ringlink previously ran an internship scheme which offered a route into the land-based sector. This year it developed into a pre-apprenticeship programme which will be accredited by Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC).
Selected candidates will undertake a three-week residential induction at SRUC prior to commencing six months of full-time employment in a suitable rural business.
Speaking after the funding announcement at the SAOS conference in Dunblane, Ringlink chairman Andrew Moir said the new government funding would make all the difference to the co-op’s ambitions to make the scheme available across the country.
“We put a business plan to the minister and this money gives us the push to get a template sorted for a national apprenticeship scheme,” he said.
Mr Moir said the educational side of Scotland’s farming industry would have to develop to meet the new practical training being developed by Ringlink.
“A national apprenticeship scheme would be a fully educational programme. At the moment training is not seen as educational so things like forklift skills, which are essential for health and safety requirements on farms, are not seen as educational.”
Rural Cabinet Secretary Fergus Ewing told SAOS that giving young people the skills and experience to meet Scotland’s employment needs was of “paramount importance” if a sustainable and profitable future was to be secured for the rural economy.
He said: “The (Ringlink) programme has been hugely successful over the last couple of years, supporting young people to gain valuable work experience and industry recognised accreditation to help them ultimately secure a job in the industry.
“Last year’s course was almost four times oversubscribed so there is clearly huge demand. That is why we are working with Ringlink to develop a plan for opportunities to further expand the programme beyond 2018, enabling the course to have a wider geographical reach.”
Other Scottish machinery rings, including HBS Ring Ltd in the Highlands, have already expressed interest in running the scheme in their areas.