Erica is doing a Modern Apprenticeship in Agriculture with near Cupar, Fife, with support from SRUC. She’s loved the first year of her apprenticeship and has learned so much throughout her short time working on a farm.
We had a wee chat with Erica about her career journey so far, the experiences she has gained and her plans for the future:
What made you want to work in agriculture?
I realised from quite an early age that I wasn’t the type of person who would enjoy working in an office 9-5, as I’m a very outdoorsy person. I wanted to work in agriculture but it was difficult to find out about the opportunities while I was at school, as not many of my friends or teachers knew much about the sector. If I’m honest, school wasn’t really for me, but I had a clear goal of working in the agriculture industry, so set out to make that happen. I decided to try and get some work experience and managed to get a part-time post on a local sheep farm in Angus close to where I live in Monifieth. This was great, as I could get practical, hands-on experience of working in the industry, and it really confirmed that this was the sector I wanted to work in.
What pathway did you take to get your Modern Apprenticeship?
I decided to leave school at the end of 5th year to find a full-time job in agriculture. I contacted local farmers to ask if they had any opportunities and applied for jobs, but it was quite difficult. I found that employers were usually looking for people who have experience and I was just starting out in the sector. However, things developed really quickly after I contacted Lantra in Perth. I told them that I wanted to start my career in the sector and was really keen to hear about any opportunities available. Luckily, Lantra knew that a farmer called James Orr, in Fife, was looking to recruit a young person for a Modern Apprenticeship. I applied for the position, was interviewed and then got the job, which I was delighted about!
What would you say is the best thing about working in the sector?
Working outside! It’s great being in the fresh air all day. I really enjoy that. I also really enjoy what I do in my job and get on with my work colleagues. I have a great boss (not just saying that because he’ll be reading this!) and a really good team of people I work with that always help and support me. The job is also so varied and is different every day, so you never get bored.
What does an average day look like in your job?
It can be anything really! No two days are the same. It might vary from lifting parsnips to ploughing, sowing, irrigation, working with cattle or carrying out maintenance on equipment and machinery. Every day is different and really interesting. As well as carrying out my daily tasks and learning “on the job” I also have to complete college work from SRUC to get my Modern Apprenticeship. There are 15 units of course work spread across the year and I have to complete them in my own time, with someone from the college coming in regularly to see me at the farm to assess how I am getting on and making sure I am on track and meeting my deadlines.
What skills would you say you need to work in this industry?
I would say that you need to have your head screwed on and be very sensible. You have to have a passion for working in this sector as it can be a very physical and demanding job, so you need to really love what you do. You need to be dedicated as there can be long days and you need to have good time-keeping skills and a positive attitude. Communication is also really important when working as part of the team at the farm, so that everyone knows their roles and you know that it’s OK to ask for help from more experienced staff.
What skills have you learned since starting your Apprenticeship?
I have learned so much in my first year and it’s been a great experience. As well as picking up technical skills from working on the farm, being part of a team of more experienced people has been good for me. I would say the biggest thing has been how my confidence has grown and developed since starting my apprenticeship. I have learned a lot in my first year and hopefully that will continue!
What’s it like working in farming as a young woman?
The industry is traditionally very male-dominated but I didn’t have any doubts or concerns about going into the sector as a young female. My boss and colleagues didn’t view me as any different to the other guys working there, which was brilliant, and I just got stuck in from day one! It is a very physically demanding job so you need to be willing to accept this and push yourself every day, but that is something that I also really enjoy. I would encourage any young woman to enter the industry as I can only say from my experience how supportive everyone has been and how much I have enjoyed it.
What would you like to do in your career?
I’m hoping to be kept on with my current employers to continue learning and developing my skills. In time, I’d like to learn how to use some of the really big machinery like harvesters and be as skilled as the rest of the team. I definitely see myself working in the sector my entire career so I’m excited about the future!
What advice would you give a young person thinking about a career in the sector?
I would say just go for it! Try to get some work experience first and see if the sector is definitely for you, so you know what to expect. It can be challenging at times and you need to work hard, but it is extremely rewarding and you won’t regret it. More and more farms are looking to take young people into the industry, so it’s a great time to think about starting your career in agriculture.
Thanks to Ross of Dundee & Angus Developing the Young Workforce team for this article.