A Career to Consider
Ms Harrison, who is best known as a presenter on BBC TV's "Countryfile" told delegates: "It's tough times for young people, it's tough times for all. So isn't a career in the food, farming and environmental sector for the non academic and isn't it low paid? It most definitely is not and I'm here to do some myth busting. It's a modern industry with a huge range of opportunities and we need bright kids, very bright kids, to take advantage of those opportunities."
She was speaking at a conference at Askham Bryan College near York organised by the Yorkshire Food, Farming and Rural Network to raise awareness of educationalists of the extensive and rewarding careers available to their students. A broad spectrum of businesses and organisations were also present to re-enforce that message, and provide both information and role models. Careers ranging from vet nursing to food production and from research work to land agency were represented.
Ms Harrison told delegates: "The agri food sector comprised 14% of national employment in the first quarter of 2012. Farming is now a broad role requiring a broad skill set - it needs people who are entrepreneurial, technologically minded, business-savvy individuals and innovators. Now more than ever we need highly skilled, talented young people, the jobs are out there and the money's out there too."
It was the third such conference, and Steve Willis, the Network Chairman and a first generation farmer, told delegates: "We have more businesses keen to exhibit here than ever because they recognise the importance of the industry we work in. It's one of the backbones of the country's economy. As an industry we've never had better support from consumers and we need to build on that."
Attending the event as an exhibitor for the third year running was Farmway, the co-operative whose headquarters are near Darlington. It employs around 160 people. Commenting on the day, Manager, Richard Martin said: "The interest from the careers advisors has been brilliant. There has been a constant flow of people asking questions about what jobs there are and what's needed to achieve them. As an industry we've been poor at selling ourselves - it's about changing perceptions that we're not either "toffs" or "country bumpkins". There's been a massive gap in recruitment of young people but that's certainly changing. As a business, we've taken on a couple of apprentices this year which is great."
Visiting for the first time were Janice Simpson of the University of York and Beverley Thomas of Leeds City Region Secretariat. "For me it's been interesting to learn more about the sciences underpinning work in this sector," said Ms Simpson. " I've been able to gather lots of information, find out about websites I'd never heard of, and talk to interesting people about their work, all of which is extremely useful in gaining a better picture of the opportunities out there," said Ms Simpson.
The event was organised by the Yorkshire Food, Farming and Rural Network in partnership with Askham Bryan College, the Yorkshire Agricultural Society and Science City York.