University of Cumbria establishes steering group to develop a land-based skills strategy

University of Cumbria establishes steering group to develop a land-based skills strategy

Cumbria’s land-based sector represents a significant part of the county’s economy and the stunning landscapes it produces underpins our growing tourism industry. Yet, as we slowly emerge from the covid-19 pandemic, it is a sector that is facing continued challenges.

Following our departure from the EU, and in response to the climate emergency and biodiversity crisis, Defra will in 2021 start implementing the biggest shift in support for agriculture and land management since 1947.

There is therefore an urgent need to provide farmers, foresters and other land managers with the skills needed to adapt their business to this change in policy and support to secure their viability as well as Cumbria’s economy, environment and communities. The announcement that Askham Bryan propose closing Newton Rigg campus from July 2021 provides an opportunity to review and design a delivery model that meets Cumbria’s current and future needs.

Taking positive steps to address these challenges, a steering group is being established to oversee the development of a land-based skills strategy and delivery model for Cumbria.

Chaired by Christine Knipe, Chief Executive of Westmorland County Agricultural Society and convened by the University of Cumbria, the steering group will include wide representation from across the land-based, rural and education sectors, the Cumbria Local Enterprise Partnership (CLEP) and Eden District Council.

Chief Executive of Westmorland County Agricultural Society, Christine Knipe said: “I am delighted to be invited to Chair the steering group and look forward to working with partners to develop this much needed strategy.

“Over 20% of Cumbria’s businesses are land based so their survival is vital to the recovery and long-term sustainability of our local economy.

“We also recognise the synergies with the broader rural economy which maintains and benefits from the natural and cultural landscapes of Cumbria.

“This 10-year strategy will focus on education, learning and applied research for both young people and the owners, operators and employees of land-based businesses and the broader related rural economy.”

As the anchor HE Institution in Cumbria, the University of Cumbria has stepped forward to set up the steering group and will provide leadership to support the development of the strategy, in collaboration with CLEP’s People, Employment and Skills Strategy Group (PESSG).

University of Cumbria Vice Chancellor, Professor Julie Mennell said: “The University of Cumbria understands the significance of addressing the long-term future of the land-based provision in our county.

“We are convening a multi partner response designed to provide Cumbria with the provision required to meet the county’s long-term needs.

“We are delighted that Christine Knipe has agreed to Chair the group and look forward to working with our partners to develop an appropriate land-based skills strategy alongside a delivery model which is fit for purpose in Cumbria.”

Mike Smith OBE, CLEP Board Member and Chair of its People, Employment and Skills Strategy Group, said: “With so many new challenges facing the rural economy, coupled with policy changes and advances in technology, it is timely to set out our skills strategy for the sector and we are pleased so many organisations are coming together to support this aim.”

Designed to support long term sustainability and develop a more coordinated approach to land-based skills for the future of land management in Cumbria and other similar areas, the strategy will include looking at further education (FE), higher education (HE), and continuous professional development (CPD) provision, as well as online learning, and developing new skills for a new and changing world.

Executive Director of the Foundation for Common Land Professor Julia Aglionby said: “It is a crucial that we work quickly to develop a land-based skills strategy and delivery model specifically for Cumbria where our area of uplands and commons is significant and our natural and cultural capital so rich.

“The strategy will focus on the skills we need going forward and address key challenges faced by the industry such as how can we improve the profitability of land-based businesses while adapting to and addressing the climate emergency and biodiversity crisis.    

“In the next eight years farming businesses face the biggest disruption for 70 years so it is essential we provide the necessary skills and support for young people and existing businesses to make this transition successfully.”