By Dr Liz Barron-Majerik Lantra Scotland director

Whilst spring is the time of new beginnings, for school pupils and students ‘tis the season of exams.

Although some see these as an opportunity to demonstrate all they have learned, for others it is a traumatic and stressful time. Parents obviously want their children to enjoy school, but also to leave with ‘options’.

So what alternatives are out there?

Well, in agriculture at least, there are an increasing range of alternatives, not least a wide range of apprenticeships. But with so many options – where to start?

Lantra Scotland’s recently refreshed careers pages contain a wide range of information about job profiles and careers in land-based industries. You can search by qualification, training programme and by industry to find the job that’s right for you, which makes it a great resource for school leavers, people changing career, or career advisers.

As modern apprenticeships learn on the job, they benefit from working on real projects with experienced colleagues. They can reflect on their work and develop their skills through experience.

So, individuals get the confidence and qualifications they need to succeed. And businesses build the talent, productivity and motivation they need to grow. With no exams!

There are already more than 37,000 young people working, learning and earning as Modern Apprentices. And it’s a real success story – 91% of apprentices still in employment six months after completing their Modern Apprenticeship; and 96% of employers say former apprentices are better equipped to do their job.

A new dairy apprenticeship has been created in Dumfries and Galloway helping to address the need for new employees within the industry. The dairy apprenticeship is an agricultural MA with specialist attention focused on the dairy sector.

The first 10 apprentices have now been taken on in Dumfries and Galloway and discussions are taking place with regards to adapting this model for the beef and sheep industry.

There are a number of case studies, profiling those that have taken the modern apprenticeship route.

Matthew Douglas, former Modern Apprentice:

“The training I have received has brought me on a lot at work and helped me understand the wider range of knowledge needed to be a good farm worker.

“When I started I couldn’t do much more than just sit in the tractor and roll a field, but now have a skillset that I would never have thought possible.”

Sam Parsons, estate manager:

“The Modern Apprenticeship is an effective way to introduce new people into the industry, and then it’s up to the employer to ensure they get the training and mentorship they need to continually improve and develop.”

Sion Williams, farm manager: “It is our job to give young people the opportunity to gain hands-on experience, and inspire them to look for lasting careers in the rural sector. If those of us who are already working in the industry don’t take this responsibility seriously, then no one will.”

Erica Taylor Modern Apprentice:

“As well as picking up technical skills from working on the farm, being part of a team of more experienced people has been good for me. The biggest thing has been how my confidence has grown and developed since starting my apprenticeship.

“I definitely see myself working in the sector my entire career so I’m excited about the future!”

Jakob Eunson, former Modern Apprentice:

“The Modern Apprenticeship has been hugely helpful to me as it’s opened my eyes to new ways of doing things. This industry has become much more technology-driven and there are new techniques being introduced all the time.”

If the young person isn’t quite sure whether they are ready to commence a modern apprenticeship, there is also the Pre-Apprenticeship programme, which was introduced by Ringlink Scotland in June, 2013. Since securing funding from the Scottish Government in 2018, the programme has now been rolled out nationally.

The programme acts as a stepping stone for a young person to get into the industry of their choice, with a three-week residential induction in SRUC or Border’s College followed by a six-month paid work placement. The pre-apprentice is employed by the local agricultural machinery ring and works within one of the ring’s member businesses.

By following this pathway, the Pre-Apprentice gains a land-based pre-apprenticeship award (SCQF Level 4) which gives the candidates scope for moving into Modern Apprenticeships or full-time employment.

There is a higher-level apprenticeship on the horizon, to be launched by UHI in the autumn.

This apprenticeship offers individuals the opportunity to progress to management level through work-based learning, rather than by completing a full time course at college or university.

Areas available include agriculture, game management, fisheries, forestry and land management.

For more info: