In the past the Royal Highland Show moved around different regions in Scotland each year before becoming a fixed event in Edinburgh. To acknowledge those areas, each year a Presidential team is chosen to highlight their area and the rural work and initiatives they are proud of. This year it is the Lothians, and in charge of the Presidential team is Sir Crispin Agnew, an advocate at the Scottish Bar, and chairman of the Crofting Law Group.

As 2018 is the year of Young People in Scotland, the presidential team’s initiative is to make young people aware of the wide range of work, career and education opportunities in the agricultural industry that are open to young people.

Jobfarm is the Presidential Initiative for the 2018 Royal Highland Show. In the year of the Young Scot, it focusses on attracting young people into agricultural industries. It operates through a website, social media and has a tent at the show.

For many years there has been a mismatch between young people looking for employment, and the availability of jobs and careers in agricultural and rural industries. There are several possible reasons for this, one of which is that agriculture is perceived as an old man’s job. Another reason is that agriculture is considered to be old fashioned job in a high tech world. Yet another reason, is that young people brought up in cities are not attracted by rural jobs. Jobfarm, the new kid on the block of career advising websites, is here to correct these misconceptions.

Firstly, yes, it is true that the average age of farmers is 59 years old but that is exactly the reason that young people of both genders should be considering working in the industry. There are jobs to be had out there in the fields, or in machinery workshops, or in food production or even in science labs. Although Jobfarm does not advertise job vacancies, it gives information on different job roles to help young people assess which roles would suit them and their qualifications.

Secondly, as soon as they sit in a tractor cab they realise that technology has come to farming. They will be faced with computers, screens and gadgets to operate while watching the machinery behind them and updating its function while sowing, or ploughing or harvesting or more. Equally, there are agricultural engineering jobs, both mechanical and electronic, requiring specialist knowledge in a high tech world. There are also scientific jobs in laboratories with one of the largest scientific hubs in the world outside Edinburgh researching soil content and animal diseases.

Thirdly, it is surprising how many young city dwellers enjoy working in a rural environment but they will not know this until they try. Jobfarm has been filming young people already in the industry, many of whom have come from non-rural backgrounds and who have taken to the outdoor life “like a duck to water”. While filming and interviewing these young people, it became clear that unpaid work experience had given them the taste for working in agriculture. Hence Jobfarm has developed a list of farmers and related employers offering a two week work experience to anyone over 16 years old. At present, because the Presidential Initiative is a Lothian project, the work experience opportunities are only in the Lothians but it is hoped that it will be developed nationally after the show.

It is also important to emphasise that there are jobs in agriculture and rural industries at all levels. For those with limited qualifications, there are unskilled jobs and training courses available, and equally there are jobs and careers for those with college qualifications and university degrees.

At the Royal Highland Show, Jobfarm has its own tent in 7th Avenue. It is running drop-in lunch time sessions when anyone interested in working in a rural environment can chat to young people already employed in a range of jobs. This is followed by a professional careers adviser on hand to give guidance and help with CV’s or applications. In addition there are virtual reality headsets so people can have the experience of driving a tractor; a film of young people working in rural jobs and talking about their route into work; and lots of information on job roles. Lastly, just in case anyone needs some distraction, there is a caricaturist to draw you as a cartoon!

Jobfarm and Dyslexia

It is estimated that an astounding 25% of farmers are dyslexic whereas the national average is 10%. This is probably because the work is well-suited to dyslexics and hence the agricultural industry tends to be a dyslexic-friendly place to work. Farmers are expected to be flexible and turn their hand to anything that needs doing and it is useful to be able to apply some problem solving skills when things go wrong.

Jobfarm, the presidential initiative for the 2018 Royal Highland Show, is also dyslexic-friendly. Its message is that dyslexics should seriously consider working in agriculture. There are apprenticeships and jobs at all levels and a wide range of training opportunities available from short tractor driving courses to degrees. Colleges and training organisations are usually supportive to dyslexics. Jobfarm also has a list of work experience opportunities, initially only in the Lothians, so that dyslexics and others can try out farming and see if they enjoy it. In addition, in its tent at the Royal Highland Show, Jobfarm will have information on dyslexia and careers advisers from Dyslexia Scotland.

There is potential career progression in agriculture too, for instance from tractor driver to assistant farm manager to farm manager. However farm management tends to involve a lot of paperwork but NFUS acknowledge the difficulties of paperwork for dyslexics and a few years ago they started a group called “Farming with Dyslexia” (FWD). Working with the Government, Dyslexia Scotland and other organisations, NFUS are exploring ways to support farmers with dyslexia. They have already adapted their methods of communication to dyslexics and are exploring how they can help with completing grant application forms and others. Technology also helps dyslexic farmers, for instance electronic ear tags for animals can be scanned and downloaded instead of having to copy lists of numbers.

If you are dyslexic, go to the Jobfarm tent to discuss your job possibilities. You will be warmly received and hopefully inspired by opportunities available to you. You will also see a film of a young dyslexic who is on an agricultural apprenticeship at present and who sees a long future in the industry.