IT'S a common complaint these days that there is a shortage of quality staff coming in to the agricultural industry. It is one which can only be added to given the impact Brexit is already having on sourcing seasonal and full-time labour, mainly from Eastern Europe.

Ever-increasingly, farming equipment is becoming highly technical, complex and driven by software, and so the 'brains' to get the most out of it will be critical as to whether the investment in new technology is maximised. Putting money into expensive machinery or technology which you fully expect to save you money, will be wasted if you or the staff you employ to use it are not up to speed.

That's why farmers can help themselves in the respect by changing their perception that training for new recruits is not viewed as a cost, but as an investment. So, the drive now being channelled by Scotland's Agricultural Champions via training body, Lantra, into farm apprenticeships and further education – which is beginning to deliver significant training opportunities and changing the perception that farm work is simply not 'sexy' enough to attract new blood – must be applauded and supported.

The rural and agricultural sectors, which include forestry and aquaculture, will train 500 apprentices of varying kinds this year and the 'champions' hope that number could be doubled during the next few years.

But, there is a missing link. At the bottom end of the education trail there is a shortage of farmers who are willing to take on pre-apprentices and – this is crucial – sign up to be their 'mentors'. Already, groups such as Ringlink and other machinery/labour rings are providing a fruitful learning ground for young people. This has been a huge success, with many of their apprentices coming through their training with a full-time job at the end of it.

But, according to Henry Graham – who is one of the 'champions' and chair of Lantra Scotland – there's a great need for individual farms/estates/businesses to come on board as vocational mentors of young 'freshers'. One of the hurdles in the way of this is that potential 'mentors' do not fully understand what is expected of them – but that is about to change.

Lantra hopes to put in place a 'mentor of the mentors' scheme to respond to this challenge, and to address the questions and fears that many might have when taking on a youngster at the bottom end of the learning ladder. Mr Graham told The SF this week that there are already positives coming through from those who have been mentoring apprentices, with the young learners sharing the experience in key learning areas such as health and safety.

It's maybe time for the industry to stop moaning about the lack of new blood coming in to work in the industry and to get behind plans to address the issue. It's also time to acknowledge the fact that working on a farm is not all about muck and mayhem – and that it can be a rewarding industry in which training can launch you on a sustainable, long-term career with prospects.