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Research aims to discover what draws people from non-agricultural backgrounds to the sector – and how they can be retained

Posted 17 November

“As we all know, farming and food are crying out for hardworking enthusiastic staff from all backgrounds, and retaining these people will be crucial for the industry’s future success. There are challenges across the industry – so this research will start to draw out the best ways that people who find themselves drawn to agriculture and agri-food from outside the sector can get the support and guidance they need to succeed."

A close up headshot of a woman – Claire Toogood – in front of greenery.

A research project aimed at finding out what attracts and retains people from non-agricultural backgrounds to education and employment in the sector has been launched by a Harper Adams academic.

Claire Toogood, a Lecturer in the University’s Food, Land and Agribusiness Management Department, is the recipient of a Farmers’ Club Charitable Trust award for the research.

Her work aims to see what approaches most effectively support people to work in, or study towards, agriculture or agri-food roles when they are not from an agricultural background.

Claire, who teaches leadership, people management, Human Resources and more to final year students at Harper Adams, has prepared a survey which aims to discover what has drawn these people to their careers or studies. For those who already have at least three months of work experience in the sector, the survey also captures their experiences of workplace management and development, to find out what works in practice. The survey can be found here.

She said: “As we all know, farming and food are crying out for hardworking enthusiastic staff from all backgrounds, and retaining these people will be crucial for the industry’s future success.

“There are challenges across the industry – so this research will start to draw out the best ways that people who find themselves drawn to agriculture and agri-food from outside the sector can get the support and guidance they need to succeed.

“This survey asks those people about their experiences, what worked and what didn’t – and is open to anyone who is 18 or over and from a non-agricultural background. You don’t need to be a recent graduate, or have a certain type of qualifications, experience or role, as I am aiming to capture as wide a range of experiences as possible. I am also keen to hear from those who have worked, or planned to work, in agriculture or agri-food, but then left the sector.”

Alongside this survey, Claire has also been working with companies and training providers, to find out the kinds of work they are doing to help those from outside the sector develop their skills.

Claire added: “I am also reviewing the promotion of agricultural and agri-food careers, courses and training, and any additional support or guidance that might be offered to applicants from a non-agricultural background.

“As the project progresses, I will develop a report on my findings and a range of case study resources to share with other universities, colleges, and training providers.

“Identifying the best ways to draw in, nurture and develop people from outside the industry will be hugely valuable, for both recruitment and retention, across the varied range of agriculture and agri-food careers in the UK.”

Any organisation which is running relevant schemes can contact Claire on ctoogood@harper-adams.ac.uk with a brief overview of their activities, and can also encourage relevant participants to complete her survey.

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