12th April 2024

T H WHITE’s Technical Manager Simon Holmes has long been a champion of apprentice engineers for our sectors of Agriculture, Dairy, Construction and Groundcare but his latest efforts in engaging an MP in the subject, really live up to the trailblazing name of the group he co-chairs.

The Land Based Service Engineering (LBSE) Apprenticeship Trailblazer group was established way back when apprenticeship standards were being set.  Simon joined the group as an employer representative in 2022 and stepped up to co-chair shortly afterwards.  He co-chairs alongside David Kirschner, an independent consultant for the Land Based industry with a background working for the initial Fendt tractor importer and Renault Agriculture.  This employer-led group consists of employers, manufacturers, training providers and assessment organisations throughout England and David represents the coalition of industry bodies that form LE-TEC (AEA, BAGMA & IAgriE).

The group was formed to represent land-based service engineering. They review the Level 2 & 3 LBSE apprenticeship standards to ensure that they are fit for purpose for the next 5 years.

The parties reviewed and audited the provision for upcoming apprentices and highlighting several critical issues in their proposals.  These being:

  1. The amount of funding for such a complex apprenticeship is low, risking more colleges pulling out of the sector.
  2. The funding is driving down wages of lecturing staff, meaning that skilled knowledgeable people are not attracted to our sector. The knock-on effect is the quality of delivery is lowered and there is no succession planning by these colleges as they are working hand to mouth.
  3. Across all apprenticeships the levy fee is not fully utilised, meaning that the surplus is taken back by the government, but not reinvested into apprenticeships.

Earlier this year a conservative MP Nick Fletcher championed this very topic with a 20 second TikTok video promoting access to LBSE apprenticeships in the simple and engaging manner.  He stood in front of a Case IH tractor and highlighted the skill set and satisfaction of mending or servicing it.  Take a look – https://vm.tiktok.com/ZGehAmwoL/

Simon wrote to Nick Fletcher to thank him, and invited him to a meeting to learn more.  With Nick’s constituency in Yorkshire, Simon didn’t anticipate a response but was thrilled with a quick reply to meet.  So last week in Bawtry, South Yorkshire, Simon and Nick overran their initial time slot engaged in fruitful discussion around how the LBSE apprenticeship pathways could prosper.  Nick then sent back his Assistant, Andrew Issacs, to continue the discussions and our Government colleagues left with a commitment to share an understanding of these issues.

We are delighted to have received such engagement from Nick Fletcher MP and Andrew Issacs.  We are hopeful of these discussions prompting a review in policy.  Well done to Simon and David for continuing to shine a light on such an important career pathway for our younger generation and thank you to our government colleagues in anticipation of ongoing engagement.