Turn technology to your advantage, study the market and do what you do really well. This was the key advice given to Reaseheath agriculture students at a ‘question time’ discussion on careers in farming and food production.

The event, sponsored by the Food, Drink & Agricultural Group of the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) and organised by Reaseheath’s Agricultural Development Academy and our agricultural department, offered valuable advice on the opportunities available in the industry, how to build a career and the attributes employers look for when recruiting.

Undergraduates and final year Level 3 Extended Diploma in Agriculture students took the opportunity to quiz a panel of experienced advisors from across the supply chain.

John Giles (Chair of CIM’s Food, Drink and Agricultural Group and Divisional Director at Promar International), Lizzie Bonsall (Consultant, Promar International), Sally Scott (Barclays Bank Agricultural Manager) and Dan Lovatt (dairy farmer and Reaseheath alumnus), offered advice on how to make the best of opportunities post Brexit.

All agreed that there would be a wide range of careers available for talented people with a combination of academic, practical and commercial skills and the determination to succeed. Business and people management skills would be critical as the market would become more volatile, and there was a shortage of people with these skills in the industry.

Advised John Giles: “A degree will always give you the edge because it demonstrates you have a trained mind and can apply yourself. But interpersonal and life skills are very important because in the end it will come down to how well you manage your business, whatever that might be, and interact with your teams and with the people you employ.

“Good graduates will get jobs. There are great opportunities out there provided you study hard and embrace what Reaseheath has to offer. But be proactive, take advantage of every opportunity, join discussion groups, network and never stop learning.”

Lizzie Bonsall agreed that business and people management skills would be key to success post-Brexit. She said: “It’s about understanding the market and doing the best to your ability. Relatively small farms can be profitable without the need for large investment provided you manage them well.”

Sally Scott suggested defining what the market needed and considering specialist enterprises such as hydroponics or vineyards. She said: “It’s not necessarily about being bigger, but being cleverer. Keep your business to a size where you can control what you put into it.”

She also reminded the students that apprenticeships, such as those offered through Barclays, remained an excellent way to gain a sponsored degree while continuing in paid work at the same time.

Dan Lovatt, who completed his Level 3 qualification with us in 2013 and has gone on to be a successful farm manager, agreed that while technology such as robotics could play an important part in larger enterprises, farms with smaller capital would always depend on skilled stock people

He suggested: “Travel to expand your knowledge and life experience. That’s how you’ll learn how to create and grow your business.”

The Q & A session, which was chaired by agricultural lecturer and beef and sheep farmer Phil Gibbon, has been a popular event in the agriculture department’s diary for the past five years and is part of CIM’s outreach programme.

Said John: “We are always very pleased to help support this event at Reaseheath. We selected the panel so they had a wide range of views and with the aim of exposing young people to the opportunities which exist in agriculture and food.

“The students were well informed and enthusiastic, and I hope they found it useful.”