Originally, the scheme was due to start on February 1 and there was a deadline of January 15 for applications from over-18s only.
The response was less than hoped for and the deadline was extended to the end of January and the GCSE requirement relaxed.
But even now only five applicants have got as far as being interviewed for the eight places available. Paul Harper, managing director of the network, said this week that one problem was that a lot of interested over-18s had left school last year and were on further education courses which would not finish in time.
Now the apprenticeships will start in May or June, to allow time for people in that position to take their final exams.
And the scheme has been extended to anyone over 16 on February 1 this year who does not already have a degree or other Level 2 agricultural qualification. Applicants should “ideally” have three A-C grade GCSEs but this is not essential.
Applicants can live anywhere but must commit to working on hill farms in the Yorkshire Dales for the two years of the apprenticeship and at least one year after it ends.
The training programme is based on a standard Level 2 Livestock Apprenticeship but will include 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 has built up considerable interest. The Dales Farmer Network has been running for less than a year, sharing the Cumbria Farmer Network offices and administration in Penrith but with its own organising committee. The headquarters address is Farmer Network Ltd, The Old Stables, Redhills, Penrith, CA11 0DT.
Askham Bryan College will certify the qualification and oversee the training of trainers.
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 official employer.
Further details from Kath Jackson on 07814 048190 or Paul Harper on 01768 898555.