As featured in Arable Farming Magazine April 2021
Government-backed apprenticeship launched
by Arable Farming
A new agricultural and horticultural apprenticeship standard has been launched to support anyone looking for a professional route to develop a career as an adviser in all aspects of crop production and agronomy.
The BASIS Crop Protection Certificate and the FACTS Certificate and Training Scheme are a key part of the standard known as the Agriculture/Horticulture Professional Adviser (AHPA) standard, which has been written after wide consultation with the industry under the auspices of the Institute of Apprenticeships.
It has been developed over the past three years under a trailblazer group led by Paul Hobson, of agronomy business Hutchinsons.
Mr Hobson identifies four likely groups of candidates.
First, new entrants to the industry, particularly those currently studying relevant courses at college or university.
Second, those with experience as farm foremen or managers who are looking to develop their career to include advisory work.
Third are skilled practitioners, such as sprayer operators, looking to raise their professionalism and finally, those who have gained a non-agricultural higher education qualification and have wide field-based experience.
The AHPA lasts for up to 30 months and is based on three key principles: knowledge, skills and behaviours.
Employers who enter employees onto the scheme are entitled to a significant proportion of training costs being refunded via the Government apprenticeship levy scheme.
How much depends on the size of the business.
In return, employers have to enable apprentices to commit 20% of their working time to formal ‘off the job’ training to support their development experience at work.
A key element of the training is the standard BASIS Certificate in Crop Protection or FACTS qualifications, depending on the career intentions of the apprentice.
These will be further supplemented by further formal training including courses run by BASIS Registration, for example BETA Conservation Management or the Soil and Water course.
Advisers who already hold certain BASIS qualifications or have other prior learning may be eligible to reduce the length of their apprenticeship.
Mr Hobson says: “Essentially, I see this qualification as ‘agronomy plus’.
Practical issues include crop walking and the use of recording software.
“This is augmented by tuition in increasingly key areas, such as precision farming, environmental aspects and soil management.
In addition, there are a range of ‘soft’ skills such as interpersonal behaviour and communication; health and safety; and even driving skills.
Aspects of farm business management including how to read a balance sheet are also covered.
“The overall result is a broad range of knowledge and skills to make a rounded professional fit for the increasing demands on those who serve the farming and horticultural industries,” says Mr Hobson.
By the end of the scheme an apprentice will have gained the relevant knowledge, skills and behaviours and built up a portfolio to evidence what has been achieved over the period.
The final step is the End Point Assessment, which is conducted by BASIS Registration as an independent reviewer.
The assessment takes two half days including an observed crop inspection and subsequent recommendations write-up, a presentation and a professional discussion.
The AHPA candidate receives a grade which may be pass, distinction or fail.
Stephen Jacob, BASIS chief executive, says: “AHPA is an exciting step forward in raising professional standards and ensuring advisers working in agriculture and horticulture are well equipped for the rapidly changing demands of the industry.”