UP-AND-COMING young farmers of the future are gaining and benefitting from valuable work experience thanks to a ground-breaking business-education partnership between Craven Cattle Marts, Craven College and local farms.

Purpose designed to help fill an acute shortage of young farm workers coming into the agricultural sector, the initiative, launched early last year, is aimed at 16-18-year-olds under the General Farm Worker Apprenticeship qualification.

It’s a three-pronged approach involving placements at Skipton Auction Mart to gain sale day work experience, day release training at Craven College’s mart-based campus, supplemented by hands-on farm work.

Now, five apprentices, all aged 16 or 17 who completed their GCSEs in summer, 2022, are successfully learning the tools of their chosen trades, undertaking an across-the-board range of working practices and disciplines involving livestock and other agricultural-related activities.

Harvey Davidson, who lives and works at Simon Bennett's farm on Silsden Moor, is undertaking his apprenticeship with dairy farmer James Gooch at Tow Top, Lothersdale, under the guidance of Danny and Caroline Yarrow, Mr Gooch’s daughter and son-in-law. There are 350 head of stock on the farm, with 150 robot-milked.

“Harvey is very willing and doing really well, checking, washing and maintaining the robots, and feeding our heifers. He is really making a difference to our farming business,” said Danny. Simon Bennett added: “It has completely transformed him.”

William Lunt, who lives on his grandfather Colin Kippax’s farm in Briercliffe, is working with cattle, pigs and sheep at Royd House, Cononley, run by Robert and Andrea Wade. Andrea, a former secondary school deputy headteacher, also works in the office at Skipton Auction Mart and is administering the scheme on behalf of CCM Auctions.

Robert said: “Will has settled in brilliantly to the farmwork and has quickly learned to feed, maintain and bed the livestock independently. He is adding new skills to his repertoire all the time, including constructing a new livestock shed, and is proving to be a valuable asset. The partnership with CCM is a great way to bring young apprentices into the farming sector.”

Amy Snowden, who lives and works on her parent’s farm in Stanbury, is on placement at Old Oxenhope Farm, Oxenhope, with the Goulding family, who run a 300-strong dairy herd, milked through a 48:24 swingover parlour. “Amy is very willing and able and learning a great deal. This is a good scheme for young people to learn a different range of skills right across the agricultural sector,” said Helen.

Ellen Wilson, of Oakworth, who hails from a farming background, is working with father and son rearing calf, store cattle and sheep farmers, Richard and Thomas Atkins, at Fourfield Farm, Oldfield. “She helped us with lambing last year when still at school and we encouraged her to undertake the new apprenticeship scheme. She is doing really well, is good with the livestock, keen to get stuck in and not afraid to get her hands dirty!” said Thomas.

Also benefitting, though not directly involved with the qualification scheme, is Emily Smith, who lives and works and is undertaking her apprenticeship at Glen Farm, Carleton, a sheep farm run by her parents John and Lynn Smith.

Emily also works part-time in the yard at Skipton Auction Mart. Dad John says he is extremely pleased with his daughter’s progress. “Emily helps looking after the sheep, feeding them and getting them ready for sale at Skipton. If she continues to show such interest we might even move back into cattle.”

The new apprenticeship is classified as a Level 2 standard General Farm Worker course spanning 18 months on a salaried position and offering two days auction mart-based, two further days farm-based and one day working towards a General Farm Worker apprenticeship at Craven College, which maintains a major on-site presence at the auction mart site, specialising in agricultural-related courses.

Graham Taylor, course tutor, commented: “The scheme between CCM and Craven College is working brilliantly. The students have a good variation of work on their farm and auction placements, which means they are able to have interesting discussions in the classroom about their different experiences. The students working together has meant for a nice atmosphere when in college as they all already know each other and appear be getting on well.”

The journey of all five apprentices is being documented by the college through a series of photos and video clips to promote apprenticeship opportunities and celebrate the success of its apprentices to coincide with this year’s National Apprenticeship Week from February 5-11. The search for the next round of new apprentices begins this Spring.