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Burger giant wants to help youngsters get into farming

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: December 11, 2013

By Philip Bowern

Farming is not all about muddy boots.  McDonald's is looking to recruit university graduates into all sectors of agriculture

Farming is not all about muddy boots. McDonald's is looking to recruit university graduates into all sectors of agriculture

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Hamburger chain McDonald's wants more students to consider a career in farming as it opens applications for its young farmer training programme

McDonald's UK is looking to recruit the 2014/15 intake of its Progressive Young Farmer training programme, which for the first time will include students at colleges and universities throughout the UK, not just those studying agriculture.

The 12-month paid training scheme aims to get more youngster into farming. According to new research undertaken by Lantra, the UK's sector skills council for land-based and environmental industries, only 12% of people working in the UK farming industry today are aged between 16 and 24.

The research highlights that more than 595,000 people will be required to join the sector over the next 10 years to safeguard the future of the industry.

Cornwall MP George Eustice, the farming minister, said: "There are very many opportunities for young people in farming and it's great to see that companies like McDonald's are helping new entrants get into this exciting and rewarding occupation. The agri-food industry contributes nearly £100bn to the economy, employing 3.3m, a figure I want to see grow even further. For that to happen we need even more new entrants and new ideas coming into the industry, which is why we're putting £410m a year into driving research and innovation in the food and drink sector."

The Progressive Young Farmer training programme, now in its third year, is designed to help young farmers kick-start their careers in the sector. It offers three students first-hand experience of practical farming and business management as well as a unique opportunity to trace the entire supply chain of McDonald's ingredients from farms and abattoirs to the restaurant front counter.

In the final stage of the training programme, students spend a week working in a McDonald's restaurant where they have the opportunity to interact with customers and prepare food using ingredients that they have seen grown, reared and harvested. Over 12 months, the scheme provides a blend of farming and business experience – from land management and animal husbandry through to marketing and IT – which is needed to succeed in the modern farming sector.

McDonald's call for applicants follows the launch of a new skills strategy designed to help young farmers, created by the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) and championed by the cross-industry AgriSkills Forum. The strategy aims to promote the importance of different skills within the sector and to attract more young farmers with the kind of business and technical skills that are key to the future of UK agriculture.

Warren Anderson, Vice President, Supply Chain, McDonald's UK, said:

"As one of the biggest customers of British and Irish farming, serving quality British ingredients to over three million customers every day, we have a responsibility to help more young people break into the sector. Harnessing new talent and skills is crucial for developing the sustainable practices that will help secure the future of farming in the UK.

"There's much more to a career in farming than many people think. In addition to skills such as animal husbandry, farmers need business acumen and an awareness of the latest technical innovations. Our Progressive Young Farmers are given a unique opportunity to benefit from the experience of expert mentors and gain an understanding of our entire supply chain, right through to restaurants, where they can fully appreciate the role farmers play in producing the food we serve to our customers."

Paul Westaway, AHDB Skills Champion and beef farmer, commented: "The farming sector is crying out for skills that people might not traditionally associate with our industry. We need to ensure students of all backgrounds see farming as a modern, progressive career option – one that gives them the chance to run their own business and help drive technological innovation. Giving aspiring farmers the opportunity to develop and demonstrate these skills will not only benefit them but the industry as a whole."

Niall Morrow, one of McDonald's Progressive Young Farmers, added: "The opportunity to follow an entire supply chain, particularly one of this scale, really stood out for me. Gaining experience in different parts of the industry and learning why what we do on farm is so important further down the line will make all the difference when I start looking to set up my own business."

The Progressive Young Farmer training programme is part of Farm Forward, McDonald's long-term commitment to help secure a sustainable future for British and Irish Farming. Farm Forward aims to address some of the challenges facing the sector, such as an ageing workforce, and is built around five core commitments: championing quality produce; improving animal welfare standards; helping young people get into careers in farming; helping make environmentally-friendly improvements to farms; and sharing knowledge within the industry.

Visit whatmakesmcdonalds.co.uk or email farmforward@uk.mcd.com. Applications for the 2014/15 intake need to be submitted via mcdonalds.co.uk/youngfarmers by January 17, 2014.

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