'Deeply troubling' lack of agriculture apprenticeships

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Student with assessor
Image caption,
Apprenticeships are seen as key to keeping Welsh agriculture competitive

Concerns have been raised about the "woeful" lack of apprenticeships for budding farmers in Wales.

Only 1% of the total number of apprenticeships available in Wales for the last two academic years were in agriculture, latest figures show.

That is despite the sector accounting for 4% of all employment in the country in the same period.

Farmer and Conservative AM Andrew RT Davies said: "Such a low number of apprenticeships is deeply troubling."

According to figures from Stats Wales, only 325 of the 31,360 apprenticeships in 2017/18 were in agriculture.

That was a slight percentage increase on the previous academic year (2016/17) when 225 agricultural apprenticeships were offered out of 24,115.

Mr Davies added: "We need to drive knowledge into the industry so we can add value to the basic product that farms produce the length and breadth of Wales".

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Eifion Parrys, 18, said his studies at Coleg Glynllifon combine practical experience with learning as well as a salary

Sam Pearson, a dairy farmer near Llanfair Talhaiarn, Conwy, said apprentices provide him with skilled and affordable workers throughout the year.

He added: "With the inevitable changes facing the agricultural industry, it's really important to get our young people trained up with the practical experience and the education they need before they enter the industry to keep us competitive and productive as Welsh farming."

One college bucking the trend is Coleg Sir Gar in Carmarthen, where the number of agricultural apprentices has almost doubled over four years.

Curriculum head of land-based studies, David Davies, said apprenticeships in farming were not as established as other industries - but people were now seeing the benefits.

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David Davies said apprenticeships were needed to keep up with technical innovation in farming

He said: "Innovation and skills are changing all the time and the job is becoming much more technical, so learners need these new skills and the only way they're going to get those is to attend some sort of training."

Llywelyn Miles, 20, is an apprentice at Coleg Sir Gar, spending four days on the farm and one day in the classroom.

He said: "It gives me the opportunity to understand why we're doing what we do. It's a no-brainer really, you're earning as you go and you see what the farmer does differently to what you may have done at home."

The Welsh Government said it is committed to creating at least 100,000 all-age apprenticeships over this current Assembly term.

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Apprentice Llewellyn Miles said he benefitted from better skills so his employer could trust him to do the work

A spokeswoman added: "We are making excellent progress in achieving this ambitious target.

"We have invested specifically in a wide range of agriculture apprenticeships and occupations to help grow the sector and provide career opportunities at all levels for young people across Wales wanting to work in agriculture."