There are many career paths and opportunities out there for youngsters to grab a hold of, to enhance their profession and stay within the agricultural industry.

It can be daunting for people to chose a career at such a young age and not knowing what is out there, so The Scottish Farmer spoke to Young Farmers’ members from across the country to see what inspired them to chose their current career paths and to showcase what is out there for everyone to achieve.

Colin engineers a new career

Born and bred in Dumfries-shire, Colin McKinnon, was brought up on the Glenkiln Estate, where his dad farms, however, it was as an agriculture engineer career route that Colin took, and he has been working for Claas dealer, James Gordon, in Dumfries, for nine years.

After leaving school at 15 – and against the advice of all teachers – he enrolled on a National Certificate in Land Based engineering course for one year at the SRUC Barony Campus, which led to being offered an apprentice role at Gordons.

“For my training, I was enrolled onto the Claas Approved National Diploma of Land Based Engineering course at the Barony for four years, which also incorporated SVQ courses in land-based engineering. This meant for the first two years I spent four months at the Barony with other apprentices from as far as Southern Ireland and Forres,” said Colin.

“Being brought up and living constantly in a farming environment it was something I always enjoyed, I guess some would say it’s just in the blood! But with no farm at home to inherit or fall back on, my family helped push me towards getting a trade and from as young as 13 my mind was set that I wanted to go into agricultural engineering. As a wee boy that loved playing with tractors and carpet farming, why would I not want to work with farm machinery full time?”

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Throughout his apprenticeship, training has continued with much more product specific training supplied by Class UK, via virtual sessions, or at Class UK HQ down in Bury St Edmunds at its training academy.

“But I have to say, as many in the job will tell you, getting into the workplace and working on different machines with different faults is the way to learn. Again, the depth of knowledge from my colleagues has really helped enhance my skill-set and push me to better myself every day,” commented Colin.

“The opportunities that are out there are endless. Agricultural engineers are sought after mainly due to the wide range of skills they develop even just during their apprenticeship, I can go from being knee deep trying to rejoin a chain on a set of slurry scrapers to trying to find a CANBUS fault on a £250,000 combine within the space of half an hour. It’s a new challenge every day!

“When it comes to passing on knowledge, you have to make the jump and take the risk. There is a severe lack of apprentices coming through at the moment and businesses and colleges need young people to keep providing high quality training and levels of work! The connections and friends I have made through my work has been great, which has helped me no ends.

“I have been given the chance to take time off and travel through the SAYFC exchange programme and on my own to New Zealand and America which I really appreciated and am thankful for. I was always happy to return to the day job,” said Colin, who outside of work is heavily involved with Lower Nithsdale YFC, with this year taking the role of chairman.

“I wouldn’t change my career path for the world! It has been everything I dreamt of and with my age and experience, has come more opportunities and responsibility. The pressure of having a silage team waiting on you to get their forage harvester going in the field with rain forecast and being able to overcome the problem – that is a great feeling!” concluded Colin.

Marketing beckons for Becca

The Scottish Farmer:

Becca Rainnie who works at Jane Craigie Marketing  photo by Craig Stephen 

Further north, in Turriff, is where Becca Rainnie has pursued her career in marketing and communications, working with Jane Craigie Marketing (JCM and Co) since March, 2018, after returning from a short spell travelling New Zealand.

Four years at SRUC’s Aberdeen campus flew by for Becca as she studied her honours in Rural Business Management. During her time studying at SRUC, she held down various part time jobs in the agricultural sector, including being a receptionist at the local veterinary surgery, clerk/admin assistant at the local mart and in her last year of studying, she started working in the marketing department for Harbro. “There really is something for everyone out there!” she argued.

“It was really through my work at Harbro and the fact I really enjoyed the marketing modules in the Rural Business Management course that I am where I am now. Marketing covers a broad variety of skills including creativity, communication, digital and writing and regardless of what sector you are in, companies and organisations will always need to market their product or services to a target audience. I enjoy that each day you are helping someone develop their business further.

“Agriculture has been a big part of my life with farming dominant in both sides of my family. I always knew I wanted to do something within the agricultural industry from a very young age and I was lucky enough to find the right opportunities along the way, to allow me to work within the sector,” added Becca.

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“Communication and not being afraid to try new things are the only way to pursue your career. Although my roles at the vets and the mart were mainly admin/receptionist roles, I got to know a lot of farmers and people from within the industry, all over Scotland.

“I would definitely encourage anyone currently wanting to go down a career path in agriculture to try and pick-up as much work experience as possible and not to be afraid of doing something, even if it’s not a specific role you see yourself in.

“I always have a smile on my face when I cross paths with someone who remembers me from one of my previous roles and it really helps to build your confidence and recognition within the industry,” she added.

“I was never the best at English, so if someone told me at school I would go on to have a career where I would be writing press releases for some of the main UK agricultural publications, I wouldn’t have believed them. If you are passionate about something, you will find a way to develop your skills and knowledge to allow you to do it,” concluded Becca.

Start to finish in agriculture for Alison

The Scottish Farmer:

Alison Lambie with her faithful companion, Eve

Growing up on a dairy farm and sharing a passion for animals with her grandfather is where the inspiration for pursuing a career in agriculture began for Alison Lambie, who now works as a temporary agricultural officer for the Rural Payments and Inspections Division, based in the Scottish Borders.

“Over the last seven years, I have had a mix of agricultural and non-farming related work – from crafting coffees to milking cows. Before I went to New Zealand to learn the ‘ins and outs’ of a Kiwi dairy farm, I worked as an admin assistant and part-time sales representative for Galloway and MacLeod.

“I learnt the sales rep ‘lingo’ and developed the confidence to engage with people from a variety of farming backgrounds – a skillset I continue to use to this day. I’d say this job was a real nudge towards continuing to pursue a career in agriculture,” said Alison, who spent four years at Edinburgh SRUC and gained an honours degree in Applied Animal Science.

“Now settled working, it has been a steep learning curve, but this has been levelled by on-going training and help available when required. New tasks have been made easier to grasp, especially during the change to working from home!”

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The opportunities to delve into the world of agriculture are there: “I have found that a lot of companies tend to share their content on social media, so it’s easy to source a variety of businesses providing various farming needs. It’s worth contacting them with your interest – even if they’re not actively recruiting!,” she said.

“Volunteering, or work experience is a big one – it gets your ‘foot in the door’. Over the years I have volunteered with RHET, and last year I was offered the opportunity to work for the full duration of the Royal Highland Show,” she added.

“Overall, I’d say that showing interest, having the will to listen and learn alongside taking a bit of initiative goes a long way. Have confidence and be honest with your capabilities when approaching a new job opportunity.

“Most of all, volunteering and any sort of work experience all adds up. It can help you decide the type of work you’d prefer to do long term, whether it’s indoors or outdoors, livestock or arable based, the list goes on!

“Looking back, I don’t think I would do anything differently. I feel it’s really important to experience the failures, such as job application rejections or new project struggles, as they made me appreciate the successes even more. Whether you have a passion for sheep, tractors, bees, forestry, or anything agricultural at all, seize every opportunity you find – you will not regret it,” concluded Alison.