Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

IT Skills Courses to Aid Farmers in Hi-Tech Era

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

IT Skills Courses to Aid Farmers in Hi-Tech Era

Article excerpt

Byline: By Anna Lognonne

Northumberland farmers are being given a helping hand to brush up on their IT skills, to cope with the ever-increasingly hi-tech demands of 21st Century agriculture.

Learning Choices, a community education charity based in Rothbury, has been awarded pounds 68,825 from Defra's Vocational Training Scheme (VTS) for its Doing I.T. in the country programme, to provide 30 IT training courses over the next two years.

The courses, specifically designed for farmers and those employed in agriculture, will enable them to gain the necessary computer skills to take on the new administrative tasks required by Defra's Rural Payments Agency, such as form filling and the on-line cattle movement system.

Long working hours have often made it difficult for farmers to access training, but the new courses will be offered in local village halls, reducing time and travel costs.

Abbey Farndale, who is managing the programme for Learning Choices, said: "Learning Choices targets hard to reach rural communities, conducting pilot projects as well as completing significant research into the lifelong learning needs of rural groups and individuals.

"We've been able to widen participation in a way which other groups have not been able to, by working in the communities themselves, supported by local networks.

"We researched the barriers and solutions to widening participation in learning in rural areas and found that time, cost and distance were often the things which prevented farmers learning new skills. Also, many of the generic computer courses do not go that step further in helping farmers cope with the electronic form filling now required, the need to set up databases to monitor cattle passports, spreadsheets to help calculate crop yields, sales and cash flows. …

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