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Training and land-based social enterprises: 3 Challenges and 3 Reasons for Optimism

Tom Kenny

Our latest policy roundtable brought together land-based social enterprises and other experts to talk about training. We talked about problems with training delivery, but also a number of reasons to be optimistic about the role of social enterprises in the future of land-based training. This blog covers three of each. 

Three key challenges:

It is extremely difficult to develop sustainable training courses that help land-based social enterprises develop the skills they need. The following are three of the key themes that came up:

1. The extremely broad set of skills needed to run modern land-based social enterprises.
This makes it very difficult for any training to deliver everything that people need, and difficult for individuals to find the right trainings. Key skills needs include:

  • Land-based skills like forestry, horticulture or landscape maintenance
  • People and ‘soft’ skills like training, counselling, and community engagement
  • Business skills like financial organisation, promotion and marketing
  • Other specialist knowledge for example of land-based policy or ways of working with public institutions

2. Specific barriers that prevent people accessing the training they need:
Age restricted funding – Lots of funding is often only available for trainees between ages 16-24.

  • Affordability – Even with existing subsidies, many people can not afford to do training courses. This is due both to course fees and having to take time off work.
  • Many people running land-based projects simply can’t take time away from them

3. The difficulty of developing paid, on-the-job training for landworkers.
Due in particular to the seasonal nature of some land-based work, and the relatively low profits, it’s hard to provide good employment conditions for trainees.  In addition to being a practical barrier to making courses sustainable, it also raises a number of other questions.

  • Is it ethically dubious to deliver training that only those with resources can take on?
  • Should we be training people for a life that may not support them financially?
Three reasons for optimism:

Land-based social enterprises are increasingly both doing a lot to plug skills gaps, and using training as a key part of their business models:

1. Land-based social enterprises can deliver great and attractive training courses.

  • Who better to teach about setting up a land-based social enterprise than someone who has gone through it?
  • Land-based projects can use their sites as attractive training venues
  • They are passionate about helping people and driven by social goals
  • They can deliver local and specialised trainings

2. Land-based projects can deliver far more than just land-based skills and train more than just future landworkers.
This is especially important as it means training can generate income above and beyond what would be available just from training landworkers.

  • Land-based social enterprises are well placed to provide supported employment services, helping people who are struggling with long term unemployment. This is especially true because of the nature of the work – being far away from the classrooms that many will have struggled with.
  • Land-based professionals can learn a lot from social enterprises, whether about community engagement, designing spaces that work for people or more.

3. Post-Brexit, government will almost certainly need to support training for the landworkers of tomorrow.
We were facing a severe lack of skilled landworkers before Brexit. If the government restricts the flow of immigration into the country this will mean even fewer people available. Increased training for British landworkers will become a necessity and something government will have to support.

How can Shared Assets help?

We finished off the roundtable by discussing how Shared Assets can help. One key theme of the responses was facilitating further collaboration and partnerships. With the diversity of our contacts and the relationships we’ve built up, guests felt we’d be well placed to facilitate and market training partnerships. Others also felt that it was important for someone to pressure policymakers to make it easier to deliver land-based training. In the coming months we will consider these options, and also share more of what we’ve learned from this project.

A huge thanks to everyone who came along! There is some really inspiring work going on and a lot of reasons for optimism about the training the landworkers of tomorrow.

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