Network's scheme to attract young to sector

A DALES farmers' organisation has organised funding for eight hill-farm apprenticeships, starting next February.

Applicants can live anywhere but would have to work in an area defined as qualifying for development assistance under the Europe-funded LEADER programme – effectively the national park area of the North Yorkshire Dales, with adjoining areas stretching across more or less to the A1.

They should be over 18 on February 1 2011, when the scheme starts.

The Yorkshire Dales Farmers Network, founded this year, has drawn up a training programme based on a standard Level 2 Livestock Apprenticeship, already run by Askham Bryan College and Craven College. The network will work with the colleges to organise the basic training and recognised certification in extra elements, particular to hill farming needs, such as shearing, dipping and fencing on steep slopes and in rocky ground. A similar scheme has been running in Cumbria and some suitably qualified trainers are already available but there is funding to train more, for part-time work on similar courses in the future.

Dales network chairman Chris Clark of Buckden, Wharfedale, said: "We are really excited about this scheme. Attracting new young people into the industry is important to our members and although only a small step, at least the network has enabled us to make this happen."

Each trainee will work on several farms over two years, paid at the minimum wage for 39 hours a week and receiving all training within those paid hours. The minimum agricultural wage is 3.97 an hour for a first-year apprentice and between 4.92 and 5.95 an hour in the second year, depending on age. Farmers using the apprentices will pay for hours of hire but will be able to reclaim some in return for their training role. The farmers' network will be the official employer. The work placement employers do not need any formal qualifications. For the time being, there are enough volunteers for their role.

Closing date for appli-cations for apprenticeships is January 14.

The Dales Network shares a head office and staff with the Cumbria Farmer Network at Farmer Network Ltd, The Old Stables, Redhills, Penrith, CA11 0DT. Write to there or call 01768 868615 for an information pack and application form.

The Yorkshire Dales Farmers Network is a not-for-profit company run by members who pay 35 a year. Membership is open to residents of the Yorkshire Dales National Park and Nidderdale AONB and near neighbours.

Follow the leader

LEADER is an acronym for Liaison Entre Actions pour le Dveloppement de l'Economie Rural – a scheme for pump-priming community efforts to improve rural economies and quality of life.

The Yorkshire Dales LEADER Action Group is run by representatives of councils, quangos and private businesses with an interest in the area of concern.

It shares offices with the Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust at the Old Post Office, Main Street, Clapham, LA2 8DP.

CW 11/12/10