AFTP Director, Carol Wagstaff, reflects on our recent launch event at the Geological Society in London. Full videos from the event are also available at the bottom of this page.
I write this article with a sense of both pride and relief. The official launch of the AgriFood Training Partnership took place on 4th July 2017 and it was lovely to finally be able to show people in the room and online what the new Partnership has to offer. This website (www.aftp.co.uk) brings the entire training portfolio into one place, searchable by theme, the method of teaching or location. We have a single application system that will streamline the whole process, and plenty of support staff who can guide your course selection whether you want to specialise in a particular area as part of your continuous professional development or work towards a qualification.
Behind the scenes the AFTP team have been working with external partners to commission the website, management systems, application processes, evaluation systems and marketing strategies; all their work has resulted in being able to launch the Agrifood Training Partnership as a fully-formed, professional organisation that is ready to serve the training needs of the agriculture, food and drink industries. Our governance structure is headed by the Executive Board, which includes industry representatives serving the retail, production and manufacturing sectors, plus individuals from senior management of each of the six core University partners. Management Board looks after the day-to-day activities and strategic direction of the AFTP; each of the University representatives has a specific area of oversight, e.g. partnership development, participant experience, course development, and is completed by an external strategic advisor and the operational team. Finally, the four technical groups – consisting of industry and academic representatives – keep their collective eyes on the needs of their specialist areas and act as ambassadors for the Agrifood Training Partnership. The technical groups check the pulse of their areas, identifying the need and market for new courses, enabling the AFTP to be agile in responding to changes in policies and practices that will impact on the agrifood industry and providing training that meets demand. The website also has a separate section covering business and transferable skills, recognising that our participants often require more than specialist technical advancement in order to progress their careers.
As important as training provision is to the AgriFood Training Partnership, the scope of the partnership is much broader. The AFTP has positioned itself to be an influential voice of the agrifood industry, underpinned as it is by universities that lead research and enterprise for the sector. The AFTP sent a robust response as part of the Industrial Strategy Green Paper consultation, highlighting the absence of the sector from the Strategy, despite the fact that agrifood is the biggest industrial sector in the UK, employing 4 million people (13.5% of UK employment) and providing 6.8% of UK GVA. Dr David McAllister (BBSRC) and Professor Bob Webb also highlighted these facts in their talks at the launch event. Bob contributed in his capacity as a member of the AgriFoodTech Council; the AFTP will help the Council address its objectives to provide skills and leadership for the sector, enabling people to see clear career progression that will help to build and retain a skilled workforce. Janette Graham further emphasised the importance of the sector and the need for structured career progression in her talk about Apprenticeships. The initiation of postgraduate level Apprenticeships is a government recognition of what the Agrifood Training Partnership has been already been delivering through its predecessor Advanced Training Partnerships e.g. work-based learning leading to an MSc qualification. We very much plan to be part of the new level 7 Apprenticeship delivery and have joined with the Trailblazer groups to help shape the new standards. The final talk of the evening was from Professor Ian Boyd (Defra Chief Scientist) who captured everyone’s attention with his opening statistic that 20% of farmers generate 80% of production from 50% of UK land. The AFTP is positioned to help forward-looking farmers within the 80% category to become part of the 20% elite through the provision of training in business, technological advancement and production management strategies that will enable their farms to be more efficient and profitable.
By definition, the launch is just the start of the AgriFood Training Partnership and I am looking forward to directing its growth and recognition within the sector. Please take some time to look around the website, whether you are new to the AFTP or whether you are a participant coming with us from one of the original training partnerships. Join us, whether as an individual or a business, in order to gain access to our network and expertise. As an employer, you can be confident that the AFTP provides professionally validated training that will give your company a commercial advantage and drive innovation within your business. As an employee, we offer flexible training that is designed to fit with your working life and which will give you access to leading experts in your field. I look forward to meeting you all.
By Carol Wagstaff, AFTP Director
Watch the full selection of launch event videos below:
AgriFood Training Partnership
The University of Reading
PO Box 226, Whiteknights
Reading RG6 6AP