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College sets out mission to create 'farm ready' students

PUBLISHED: 11:45 28 June 2019 | UPDATED: 12:07 28 June 2019

Easton and Otley College staff members and guests at the launch of a new farm ready students project. Picture; John Nice

Easton and Otley College staff members and guests at the launch of a new farm ready students project. Picture; John Nice

Archant

Preparing students better for work in the agricultural industry is the goal of a new programme at an East Anglian college.

Easton and Otley College launched its Farm Ready Student project at the Royal Norfolk Show, for which it is hoping to sign up 10 East Anglian farmers to provide work experience opportunities for students.

Jane Townsend, principal of Easton and Otley College, said the institution had come in for criticism from members of the local agricultural industry for producing students who were not "work ready".

"With Brexit, farmers are really concerned about where their workforce is going to come from and the students we are producing do not always have the practice they need to hit the ground running in a consistent way," she said.

"Because of the environment we are in now business and education have to work in collaboration."

Ms Townsend said the college was exploring Farm Ready Student partnerships with Norfolk estates including Morley, Honingham and Stody.

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She added: "I want to start producing well-rounded and experienced young people and I want their competencies to be endorsed by the farmers, not just the college."

City College Norwich, which is set to merge with Easton College by the end of the year, also took the chance to quiz industry representatives and Easton College stakeholders at the Royal Norfolk Show.

Principal Corrienne Peasgood said continuing conversations with industry would be critical in shaping Easton College's future, as would building more business and digital skills into its courses.

She said: "So many of the conversations I have been having show it is not just about the qualifications, it is about the skills that young people need around them.

"Some are technical skills but some are the softer 'work ready' skills such as working as a team, communicating orally and in writing, and having the confidence to work independently.

"At City College we talk about 'professional students'. We expect our staff to model those behaviours and expect our students to display them, and I think it is not any different in agriculture."

She added: "We are not sure what a 'farm ready student' looks like yet but we are closer with the feedback we have had from others which will help to shape it."

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