Skills passport to benchmark dairy industry knowledge

The first skills passport to recognise knowledge and skills gained in the dairy industry is being launched today (21 June) at The Royal Highland Show.

The initiative, which is being piloted by 100 First Milk members, acknowledges that there is considerable 'on-the-job learning' which is not being recognised within current qualifications.

NFU Scotland President Jim McLaren gave the scheme his backing at the launch, saying: "The UK and Scotland's dairy farmers are amongst the most efficient in Europe, however, there is never room for complacency. We need to be constantly raising the skills base across the whole industry. This initiative has the potential to do just that. It can identify the existing skills gaps, then look at how training can be provided to close them. That can only lead to a stronger industry, better placed to compete in an incredibly tough market."

First Milk and Sector Skills Council Lantra have collaborated on this project and consulted extensively with the dairy industry to develop specific profiles for the four individual job roles which range from relief milker through to assistant/relief dairyman; dairyman and finally dairy manager/owner.

At each level, employees will be given a workbook that they will go through with their employer. Once their employer believes they have gained the appropriate skills, they then sign off on that level and can apply for the Lantra Skills passport. The employee can then move to the next stage.

Tom Campbell, Director of First Milk, said: "Our members are very keen to pilot this initiative which will recognise the informal learning which takes place within the dairy industry. The initiative will help us pinpoint where there are knowledge gaps and then, through our industry-leading First Milk Academy, we can tailor training to overcome these.

"Our industry can only benefit from this initiative as it gives employees a tangible acknowledgement of their skills and it gives employers a clear indication of where there are training needs. We can then support employers and their staff in meeting those training needs and therefore the entire industry improves."

William Fergusson, Lantra National Director for Scotland, commented: "We would acknowledge within the dairy sector that many employees have the necessary technical skills to carry out their role, however we need to ensure that farmers and managers are also equipped with the business management skills to help them run their farms profitably."