In anticipation of the new college year, August is an important time for our students. It is always an exciting time but it can also be challenging getting used to new routines and people.
We have an induction week at the start of all our courses which ensures our students get to know the College, other students and tutors before they officially begin. Students will take part in a wide range of activities based around the campus which are fun and interesting and by the end of the week the students are ready to start learning.
As staff, we believe we can make a difference to how students feel about college by how quickly they settle in. We introduce agricultural themed activities during induction week and tell them what to expect as a student.
As our regular student bloggers are busy in the industry this month and aren’t at College, I have asked two of our Agricultural staff to tell us about their career journey.
Martin Heal, Higher Education Course Leader at Bridgwater College’s Cannington Centre
After leaving school way back in 1978, I lived and worked on my family dairy farm based near Glastonbury, for the next 20 years. During this time I completed my higher agricultural qualifications with Cannington College on a day release basis. I had also always been interested in computers and became involved with a local agricultural computing firm ‘Computing for Farming’. They focused on sales and training in conjunction with running the dairy farm, with my wife and three children.
After the foot and mouth outbreak in 2001 there were various Government initiatives to help the agriculture industry get back on its feet. I was contacted by Cannington College to implement a computer training program for farmers in Somerset, this was named the ‘Agrinet’ project and lasted for three years. During this time internet usage grew enormously and so did other projects intended to assist rural communities with training and installation of new computer systems, including Somerset County Council’s Broadplaces scheme in which I was also heavily involved. By this time Cannington College had merged with Bridgwater College and was renamed as Bridgwater College’s Cannington Centre; I then moved to the business section of the new organisation.
It was at this time I made the decision to sell the dairy cows and work full-time as Trainer/Lecturer in Business Computing splitting my time between Bridgwater College, Woolboard, Somerset County Council and the Exmoor Community Computer Centre at Winsford. It was during this period that I gained my advanced computing and teaching qualifications. Along with colleagues I wrote and designed various work schemes for rural business computing.
In 2010 I returned to Bridgwater College’s Cannington Centre and worked as a full-time Lecturer in Agricultural Business. My responsibilities included running the Rural Business Administration qualification designed to train farmers or their associates in all aspects of modern farm administration.
The following year I became Course Leader for Agricultural Higher Education (HE) courses and over the next five years my colleagues and I have been part of a dramatic increase in agricultural student numbers (over 300 in 2016). In 2014 Bridgwater College invested heavily in this sector with new facilities and buildings being built, totalling over £4 million. Finally, I was part of the HE team who were successful in the development of the new full-time Agricultural Degree programme validated with Plymouth University. The first cohort now enrols in September 2016. My philosophy has always been to focus on student experience and incorporate training with broadening the mind enabling students to grasp new opportunities in the future.
Ben Ingram, Multi-skilled Farm Worker/Instructor
After leaving school I spent a year working on a dairy farm looking after for 100 cows while studying for my NVQ Level 2 in Agriculture. On completion of my course I worked for Mole Valley Farmers Feed Supplements for a year. This year was extremely valuable to me as it helped me realise that I wanted to broaden my opportunities and develop my career further, I therefore decided to go back to College.
I decided to study for a National Certificate and while on my work placement, at an arable and sheep milking farm, I was offered a permanent job. I accepted the job offer and went back to College part-time, where I studied a Level 3 Apprenticeship to enhance my skills and train me to craftsman level. Studying an Apprenticeship was great for me, as it allowed me to be hands-on on the farm while learning the theory of farming and its practices in the classroom.
On completion of my Apprenticeship I went on to study a Foundation Degree in Agricultural Management which led me to a job working on a farm with 600 dairy cows for ten years before working for Bridgwater College. I now work with students helping them to build their skills and knowledge mainly on the College farm. I’m really looking forward to meeting the new students in September and feel as though I can support them on their education journey as I have undergone a similar route to them.
If you have ambitions to work in the agriculture industry and would like to know more about how you can do so, please call our Information and Guidance team on 01278 441234. They will be able to inform you about the range of courses we have available and also provide careers guidance.