Sharpening up the skills sector

In March this year, Lantra was launched as the government-recognised Sector Skills Council (SSC) for the environmental and land-based sector. Louise McCarthy, Lantra, explores how education, training and skills development are at the heart of sustainable development.

On 13 March 2002, Minister for Adult Skills, John Healey MP, officially launched

Lantra as the new Sector Skills Council (SSC) for the Environmental and Land-based

Sector. As an SSC, Lantra has been licensed by the UK government to drive forward

a new skills, training and business development agenda for the environmental

and land-based industries.

The second UK government report on sustainable development, Achieving a better

quality of life, was also launched on March 13. The original report, published

in 2000, addressed the need to deliver sustainable development in the UK. The

government recognises sustainable development as embracing four themes: social

progress which recognises the needs of everyone; effective protection of the

environment; prudent use of natural resources; and the maintenance of high and

stable levels of economic growth and employment.

It is not difficult to see what a vital role those working in the environmental

and land-based sector have in contributing to sustainable development, and through

this contributing to the economic, social and environmental health of the UK’s

countryside. Ensuring that workforce has the training and skills to achieve

this is, therefore, paramount.

“We believe in Lantra’s contribution to sustainable development,”

says Lantra chairman, Dr Gordon McGlone, who is also director of Gloucestershire

Wildlife Trust, “Our new ‘environmental and land-based’ title acknowledges

the close and interdependent nature of the various industries that we represent.

Although often small in themselves, when taken together these industries contribute

significantly to the economic, environmental and social well- being of the countryside.”

Recognition of the sector’s contribution has also been highlighted by the Policy

Commission’s recently published report on the Future of Farming and Food.

An integrated approach

Building and maintaining local communities is also acknowledged as being vital

to achieving the social aspects of sustainable development.

Thriving rural communities can only be built and sustained on thriving rural

businesses, and the environmental and land-based industries play a key part

in the UK’s rural economies. Rural regeneration and recovery, particularly in

the aftermath of foot and mouth disease, is therefore also central to Lantra’s


A typical example is in Yorkshire where Lantra, working with rural organisations,

has secured significant funding from the Yorkshire & Humber Regional Development

Agency to deliver business improvement events such as Information & Communication

Technology (ICT) workshops.

“Sustainable development is not achievable as an objective in its own

right, but must be the outcome of an integrated approach that takes a wide view

of productivity,” says McGlone. Businesses will have to ensure that financial

gains do not displace the need to run their operations in an environmentally

sustainable way.

However, the general public’s expectations of a pleasant and well-managed countryside

can only be sustained if supported by economically viable business. One thing

is clear: for businesses to identify and implement financially sustainable practices,

that are at best neutral or preferably positive in their impact on the environment,

the development of new skills and knowledge is necessary.

Lantra has already made great progress to meet its objectives of reducing such

skills gaps and shortages in the sector. For example, it is responsible for

delivering online learning through the University for Industry (Ufi) initiative,


“Lantra’s work with the University for Industry to develop a sector learning

hub for the environmental and land-based industries represents a major step

forward in providing sector-specific learning material,” says McGlone.

Courses that focus on the environment and conservation, and encourage the integration

of sustainable development into farm practices, are already available through

Lantra Awards. They cover skills such as growing renewable energy crops, how

to use nutrients and fertilisers effectively to minimise environmental impact,

and how to prevent pollution, including air, soil, noise and water, and abide

with IPPC (Integrated Pollution Preven-tion Control) regulations.

Education, training and skills development such as those being facilitated

through Lantra, along with initiatives to improve the supply of learning to

all in the environmental and land-based sector, are at the heart of ensuring

sustainable development. Keeping a close eye on changes in the sector, Lantra

will continue to work with employers to increase the environmental, social and

economic capital of their industries.

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