Up-skilling within the Northern Ireland farming sector. An assessment of the effectiveness of alternative models for delivering training and life-long learning within the Northern Ireland agriculture sector

Farm businesses are increasingly being required to become more productive in terms of managing inputs and resources, while still responding to issues such as environmental management (including greenhouse gas emissions), food quality (including safety) and farm biosecurity; this has been referred to in the literature as “sustainable intensification”. Scientific, technological and regulatory developments are all requiring farm operators to up-skill in a wide range of areas. This has been identified as a priority area in the ‘UK strategy for agricultural technologies’ (July 2013) which highlighted a need across the primary agriculture sector ‘for faster and more widespread adoption of best practice and innovation’.   This project will focus upon reviewing a range of training and life-long learning methods which are and can be used to ‘up-skill’ farmers in terms of improving business efficiency skills, technical skills and skills to meet regulatory requirements, for example in the areas of environmental management and animal health/welfare. The study aims to explore the training needs of all those working on farms; but with a particular focus on those who have a managerial/decision-making role. The study will also aim to identify situations where investment in skills and training has added to farm business performance rather than being perceived as a cost or compliance issue.