Implementing the Skills Agenda in the Agriculture, Food and Forestry Sectors: Current and future skill needs for sustainability, digitalisation and the bio-economy
European and global challenges
The Food 2030 policy highlights the vulnerability of agri-production due to the globalisation of the markets, increasing competition, the prices volatility and the economic uncertainty along with the low incremental crop productivity. Those vulnerabilities are stressed by increasing demand for food and feed. On the other side, environmental concerns and climatic changes generate more uncertainties. Moving from business-as-usual agriculture to sustainable farming is a complex process which requires a system approach, including reshaping the role of the farmer: from a mere producer of food and commodities, into “wise manager of the natural capital”. This requires to profit of advances in sustainability, digitalisation and bioeconomy.
However, transfer of these innovations and skills to farmers requires cooperation of all the actors in the ecosystem of actors of agriculture, food industry and forestry sectors including farmer’s representatives and civil society. Today’s farmers undoubtedly have expertise yet they need help to gain additional skills to deal with new technologies and to meet the challenges of climate change and land management in the 21 st century. Also, the level of qualifications is low by comparison with other sectors; there is poor uptake of continuing vocational educational training that needs to be addressed through appropriate VET training.
The FIELDS project
In this context, the purpose of the FIELDS project is to answer those challenges through the skills prism. The project has eight work packages, and has the purpose of providing strategies and training in the fields of innovation in agriculture and forestry, with particular emphasis on sustainability, digitalisation and bio-economy. These are the main objectives of the work:
- Identify global trends and skill gaps
- Design a strategy at the EU and Country level to improve the skills
- Provide training material and training pilot to implement these strategies
- Allow transferability of the skills among EU countries following European frameworks (ESCO, ECVET, EQAVET, etc.)
- Provide sustainability and awareness of the project after the project ends
Latest developments and next steps
Last May, the first face to face meeting of the consortium since before the pandemic took place in Paris. The results from work package 1 and 2 were shared (Skills needs identification & Priorities and strategy design). As part of the first work package an overall view of the sectors and their future needs was drawn and the current and future skills gaps and training needs were identified. The consortium also identified good practices, valuable experiences, existing studies, partnerships and policies. You can explore them on the project’s website. As part of work package 2, 10 occupational profiles were co-created by all relevant project partners with dedicated profiles for sustainability, digitalisation, bioeconomy and forestry. A common module on soft skills and entrepreneurship was developed which underlines the importance of these transversal skills.
In the coming months, in order to adapt the training methodology to the target groups, the FIELDS consortium will analyse the most suited pedagogical approach and training methodology for the chosen occupational profiles and create the tailored curricula (work package 3). The training will be implemented directly in the project by VET providers and HEI. A module for the trainers will also be created to ensure the proper transfer of the content. To foster mobility of students, an apprenticeship scheme will be developed and linked with the existing EU tools.
FIELDS project: Addressing the current and Future skIll needs for sustainability, digitalization, and the bio-Economy in AgricuLture: European skills agenDa and Strategy. FIELDS is an Erasmus+ KA2 project: Sector Skills Alliance. The project coordinator is the University of Turin and it involves 31 partners from 12 countries.