The sector nationally comprises 360,000 businesses and employs around 1,000,000 workers. A further 400,000 people work as volunteers mainly in conservation and animal welfare. The sector contributes 5.8% of UK GDP. Over 23% of the people working in the sector are over 55 with (average age 42 years) with this rising to 33% in agriculture. Demand for labour will continue due to changes in employment patterns and the need to replace those leaving the sector. The land-based sector is mainly made up of ‘micro businesses' employing an average of 2.5 people in each business, whilst 94% of businesses employ less than 5 people and 50% are sole traders. They rely heavily on local employer networks and trade associations for support. It is important to note that the specific needs of, and pressures on, micro businesses are different from those of SMEs.
The industry is undergoing significant change. Livestock, still remains the sector's largest industry in terms of the number of business units (48%) and employees (28%). The industry also makes the sector’s largest contribution to GDP - £8.5m representing 18% of the sector's estimated contribution. When these figures are combined with those for Crops, other related agricultural areas and Production Horticulture the economic significance of primary producers is evident, providing one quarter of the sector’s contribution to the economy. The Equine industry for example, an industry experiencing growth, generates 4.2% of the sector’s GDP from only 1.6% of the sector's businesses. The Landscaping/Amenity Horticulture industry, clearly one the sector’s largest employers, is estimated to provide 9% of GDP from 11% of the sector’s total workforce. The Trees/Timber industry with 1.7% of all businesses and 3.65% of employees generates 7.6% of the sector’s contribution to GDP.
The rural economy has been particularly hard-hit in recent years, most recently through Foot and Mouth Disease, and much work is now focusing on regenerating businesses in rural locations. The rural and geographically dispersed nature of the sector also brings with it issues of difficulty in accessing essential business and learning support services.
Although economics is an important factor for land-based businesses, other issues such as social and environmental sustainability are of equal, and in many cases greater, importance. This has a major impact on the type and nature of the skills and business support which employers seek.
Lantra think that employment levels:
The sector has traditionally had significant “unpaid support” from women. Increasingly this will be formalised and recognised and the numbers of women working in the sector is expected to increase. The increasing number of diversified businesses will augment this. The number of volunteers in the sector is expected to increase
External influences on the take-up of land-based training include:
There is strong evidence from education providers that numbers of young people entering post 16 education and training in the sector is being maintained (increasing in some indursties) despite recent difficulties in the rural economy. Evidence suggests 14-19 yr olds prefer full-time courses - ND or HND. The only areas where there is growth in Modern Apprenticeships are veterinary nursing and farriery: however, training in both subjects is driven by legislation and could well be distorting the 'learning market'.
Environmental issues will play a significant role in the development of the sector over the next ten years, as will the government’s interest in urban regeneration which could produce job opportunities in improving the urban environment (conservation, urban forests, amenity horticulture). Traditional craft-based skills are also in demand by heritage bodies and national parks.
Lantra has identified areas with skills shortages
In addition they are seeking to:
There needs to be continual development of higher level technical skills within the sector, and an overall improvement in business management skills and ICT skills. This was further supported by the action plan for farming campaign supported by Defra where 10,018 Training Needs Analyses were carried out across 22,776 individuals in England. The specific findings indicated that:
In addition key and generic skills development is required in communication and customer care. Because of the nature of businesses in the sector only a very low number, as low as 20%, of business have any form of business plan. These skills need to be developed to allow businesses to test out various potential business options and plan for the future.
It is estimated that 70% of current jobs and 80% by 2006 would demand skills at NVQ/SVQ level 3 and above and less than half the workforce are educated to this level, although the issues around Accredited Prior Learning and equivalence make absolute comparisons difficult. Up to 170,000 of the workforce will need to be up-skilled to level 3 and above. The extent of the potential skills gap this represents is demonstrated by the fact that the report also indicated that in 2000 almost 40% of the workforce had at most a Level 1 qualification.
The overall forecast is for a roughly stable workforce, with increases in production horticulture, equine and environmental conservation outstripping the decline in the agricultural industries. Combined with the relative age of the workforce and the high turn over figures, this produces a constant high demand for labour from employers and is represented in the fact that on average 21% of employers report recruitment difficulties.