Developing the next generation of female farmers
Duchy College’s apprenticeship programme is all about growing the next generation of farmers and this includes encouraging female students, explains Cayley Wright, Level 2 & 3 Agricultural Apprenticeship Programme Manager.
“Since I started my career 12 years ago, we’ve seen a positive change in the number of female students taking up agricultural apprenticeships,” explains Cayley. “In 2010, I was the only female on my apprenticeship course, but this year at Duchy, we have 12 women, nearly 50% higher than previous years.”
Duchy College is also seeing an increase in female land-based staff. “Gender does not impact your ability to work in agriculture, and we must actively communicate this to our students,” comments Cayley. “We believe having female staff who are strong role models is an important part of encouraging more women to choose agriculture.”
We spoke to five female apprentices studying a stockperson level 2 qualification at Duchy College about their route into farming, and their aims for the future.
While the course has opened her eyes to a wide range of careers in agriculture, Molly is passionate about eventually taking over her family’s dairy farm.
“It’s a fantastic course,” says Molly. “The teachers are great and make learning easy and enjoyable. Learning from others in the group is also really valuable, especially those from different parts of the industry.”
Molly’s advice for those interested in studying agriculture is simple: “Be brave and don’t ever listen to those who doubt you.”
Becky plans on becoming a partner in her family’s farming business, but is keen to pick up the skills needed for her future career before that happens.
“A big benefit of the course is its diversity,” explains Becky. “Being from different sectors means we can share ideas and learn from each other.”
After completing her course, Becky hopes to gain more experience by working in New Zealand.
“Grab every opportunity you are offered,” she advises. “But looking after livestock is a lifestyle, not just a job, so don’t be afraid of also making time for yourself.”
Taking on a relief milking job opened Hermione’s eyes to a career in dairy farming: “I had been studying beauty therapy in secondary school, but found I was really enjoying milking, so spoke to my employer about an apprenticeship.”
Since starting her course Hermione has built on her practical skills with a solid theoretical knowledge of dairying. “Spending time with others who also have an interest in agriculture has been really beneficial,” she adds.
Hermione has some simple tips for those considering a career in agriculture: “Gain as much experience as you can. Set realistic goals but don’t let them stop you achieving your full potential.”
Mature student Penny took up her apprenticeship after enjoying her work as an assistant milker. “I grew up in the city but wanted a different upbringing for my children and so began working on the farm. My employer suggested an apprenticeship would be a good way to develop my knowledge and skills,” explains Penny. “I’ve already learnt so much from the course and from being around like-minded females in agriculture.”
Penny stresses the need to stay positive: “Being a female in what sometimes feels like male territory can be challenging, but keep going. Surround yourself with positive people.”
Mamie has always wanted to work in the dairy industry. “While my grandparents are beef and sheep farmers, I’ve wanted to milk since I was 14. I started off calf rearing, then relief milking and now I’m doing my apprenticeship,” explains Mamie.
“An apprenticeship has been more beneficial for me than a ‘traditional’ full time course. It’s great being around other hands-on learners and picking up tip and tricks from other farmers. I’ve been able to take part in stock judging which was a good learning opportunity for me.”
Mamie’s advice to others echoes that of others on the course: “Take up every opportunity, but also take time for yourself.”
Duchy College offers a range of agricultural qualifications to learners of all levels, including university-level courses. Find out more at https://www.duchy.ac.uk/subject-areas/agriculture-countryside-management/
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