Posted 27 October 2009
In response to two separate reports in the last week highlighting a skills gap in agriculture, Harper Adams has outlined the part it is playing to produce graduates who can help to address the global food security challenge.
The Royal Society report, Reaping the benefits: Science and the sustainable intensification of global agriculture, has concluded that “Universities should work with funding bodies to reverse the decline in subjects relevant to a sustainable intensification of food crop production, such as agronomy, plant physiology, pathology and general botany, soil science, environmental microbiology, weed science and entomology”.
Meanwhile, skills council Lantra’s latest skills assessment research found that “the nation's ability to produce enough food will be challenged because of a critical shortage of skilled workers in the environmental and land-based sector.”
It highlights that 31% of vacancies across agriculture are hard to fill because of skills shortages, compared to 21% across all sectors, with significant problems for farm managers (70%) and farmers (59%).
Furthermore, challenges such as climate change, food and fuel security mean that farmers and growers now need to acquire even higher levels of skills and knowledge to do their job, according to the Lantra report.
Dr Russell Readman, Agriculture Courses Manager, explained that Harper Adams is teaching the subjects identified by the Royal Society as “in decline”.
He said: “Harper Adams has liaised closely with industry to ensure that courses offered are fit for purpose and produce agriculture graduates with the knowledge and skills required in the workplace.
“All agriculture courses at Harper Adams incorporate up-to-date technical content that is taught in a practical context. The Agriculture with Crop Management course incorporates modules such as Crop Growth and Management, which covers crop physiology; Crop Protection Technology, which considers weed and disease science; and Soil & Plant Nutrition, which covers soil science. The principles taught in these modules are further developed and applied in the final year of the course through integrated modules such as Advanced Agronomy and Sustainable Farming.”
Dr Readman also demonstrates how close collaboration with the sector helps Harper Adams to produce well-rounded, highly skilled graduates that are in high demand.
“All agriculture courses incorporate a paid 12-month placement in industry. The placement year allows students to apply theory and principles in a commercial environment,” he added.
“A number of companies offer scholarships linked to placement to support students in their studies. Syngenta offers three scholarships linked to placements in the crop science sector, Cooperative Farms and Velcourt offer scholarships linked to placements in the arable sector, and The Arable Group also offers a scholarship.
“Due to the theoretical and vocational nature of the courses, Harper Adams agriculture graduates are able to apply theory in practice and are consequently very employable and highly sought after by industry.”