Review summary

This summary report details the key outcomes of the Institute’s agriculture, environmental and animal care route review. It includes changes to the route’s occupational map, final recommendations for the standards in scope and the Institute’s overarching commitments to the route.

The agriculture, environmental and animal care route review is the fourth conducted by the Institute. Each of our reviews has provided a valuable opportunity for us to listen to employers, apprentices and providers to get a better understanding of the occupations and skills required and to appreciate the opportunities and challenges facing employers in developing the workforce, now and into the foreseeable future. The disruption resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic has made this more important than ever.

We recognise that COVID-19 continues to impact the whole sector and have considered the most appropriate time to publish our findings. We recognise businesses may not have the opportunity to engage with the full report in the current climate and have therefore decided to publish a summary of our key findings initially. We will publish a full report later this year, which will also reflect on the impact of COVID-19 on the sector and any longer-term implications for technical education. Alongside the report, we will organise events with employers across the sectors to discuss the findings.

The review has produced an updated occupational map that adds occupations employers have said they need to meet current and future business requirements and removed those that are no longer relevant. In doing so, we have also looked and embraced emerging skills and skills needs. The work has also scrutinised occupational standards to make sure they include the knowledge, skills and behaviours to allow an individual to become fully competent in an occupation. This has led us to make recommendations for changes for the 11 occupational standards in the review, taking into consideration employer needs now and in the future.

In this summary report, we have also set out the Institute’s commitments to this route. These commitments include ensuring the availability and accessibility of high-quality technical education by working with employers to identify new occupations and also protect heritage skills. This will ensure that technical education offer will be of the highest quality for learners and provide organisations with employees with the right skills for their business.

We would like to thank everyone who has engaged with the Institute in our preparation of the findings and their confirmation.

1. Review context

We have worked hard to make sure that this review is truly reflective of the views of agriculture, environmental and animal care employers. From the outset, the project has been a highly collaborative process with employers and other stakeholders close to delivery thoroughly engaged throughout, despite the challenges. The review launched in October 2019 with a public consultation and engagement with employers (including trailblazer groups), representative organisations, apprentices and providers. Regular and continuous input was sought throughout the review – which included regional workshops delivered by Landex.

In March 2020 the Institute, in consultation with employers, made the decision to slow the pace of route reviews because of the COVID-19 pandemic. While work continued, we were aware of the unprecedented challenges that employers were facing and we have carefully managed what we have asked of them. We ran the remaining Landex workshops online in October 2020.

Employers that we have engaged with, following the November 2020 national COVID-19 lockdown, advised us that publishing the full details of the review’s findings and recommendations would not fully realize the benefits and opportunities for the sector. However, a summary report would support trailblazer groups to move forward in making changes to standards, where needed, and to understand which new occupational standards have been prioritised for development. We will continue to engage with employers and publish the full report later this year, and also reflect the impact of COVID-19 and the longer-term changes to the sector that may influence future technical education programmes. This may include findings emerging from the Institute’s newly established Green Apprenticeships Advisory Panel (GAAP), which has been tasked with identifying where the apprenticeship offer across all routes should be extended or amended to support the UK workforce to meet national carbon targets. We plan to run employer engagements alongside the release of the full report to discuss the findings.

We would like to thank all employers who have taken the time to develop the occupational standards in this route.

2. Recommendations for the agriculture, environmental and animal care occupational map

The agriculture, environmental and animal care occupational map sets out the occupations within the agriculture, environmental and animal care route that can be accessed via technical education.

As part of the review, we conducted an overarching evaluation of all the occupations listed on the agriculture, environmental and animal care map to ensure they reflected employers’ current and future needs. The focus for the analysis were particularly occupations that have not yet been developed into occupational standards to ensure the map meets employer needs now and in the future. The following changes will be made as a result:

Two new occupations have been added to the map

Two new occupations have been added to the map and are ready to be developed into occupational standards by employers:

  • Production horticulture manager (higher technical occupation – level 4/5)
  • Specialist veterinary nurse (higher technical occupation – level 4/5)

Four occupations have been removed from the map

We have removed the following four occupations from the map following consultation feedback and engagement with the sector. This is because the occupations do not meet our criteria and/or are covered by other occupational standards. For example, head gardener is covered by horticulture or landscape technical manager (Level 5) that is currently in development. There are also professional forester (level 6) and professional arboriculturist (level 6) occupational standards in development currently – removing the need for a tree surgeon (level 6).

  • Assistant gardener (technical occupation – level 2/3)
  • Head gardener (higher technical occupation – level 4/5)
  • Tree surgeon (professional occupation – level 6+)
  • Arboretum curator (professional occupation – level 6+)

One occupation has been amended on the map

One occupation was amended on the map to broaden the scope of the potential standard.

  • Plant breeder (professional occupation – level 6+) has been amended to horticultural scientist

Three changes have been made to the structure of the map

Consultation respondents suggested the following three changes to the structure of the occupational map:

  • Viticulture and oenology manager (higher technical occupation – level 4/5) has been moved from the agricultural manager cluster to the production horticulture manager cluster, as viticulture is a branch of horticulture
  • Due to the strong similarities, the game and pest control technician cluster has been incorporated into the conservation and countryside work cluster (technical occupations – level 2/3)
  • Due to the strong similarities, the game manager cluster has been incorporated into the conservation and countryside and countryside specialist cluster (higher technical occupation – level 4/5)

As a result of the online consultation and Landex workshops, respondents suggested that 15 occupations should be prioritised for development. Of these, seven are already in development and a further two already have occupational standards approved. There were five further suggestions that are closely related to occupations included in other routes or that were removed from this route’s map due to coverage by other occupational standards.

The final occupation suggested for prioritisation was for a forest manager/officer (higher technical – level 4/5). We are discussing the potential demand for technical education provision for this occupation with employers. If there is employer demand, the occupation will be added to the occupational map. It is likely that the demand for occupations related to tree planting and management will increase in the very near future to help meet Defra’s tree action plan targets that are aiming to plant 30,000 hectares of trees per year by 2025. The £640m Nature for Climate Fund budget provides significant funding for tree planting. More information about England’s tree planting strategy can be found on Defra’s website.

The occupational map has been amended to reflect the above changes.

3. Recommendations for individual standards in scope of the review

Some of the standards in this route have only been recently approved.  The following criteria were used to determine which occupational standards were in scope for detailed content scrutiny in the review:

  • Occupational standards where an apprenticeship was approved for delivery prior to the establishment of the Institute in April 2017, unless the occupational standard had been significantly updated since.
  • Occupational standards where concerns have been raised over the content.
  • Occupational standards that do not comply with the Institute’s criteria.

The 11 occupational standards included in the review met at least one of these criteria and were therefore looked at in detail.

Each of these occupational standards has been assessed against the Institute’s quality requirements, taking onboard feedback from employers (including trailblazer groups), apprentices, providers, alongside that received through our public consultation and regional workshops delivered by Landex. We also considered feedback from the Institute’s peer reviewers, who are independent third-party experts in the relevant occupations.

The Institute’s agriculture, environmental and animal care route panel evaluated all the evidence and confirmed the final recommendations.

These are the final recommendations on each of the occupational standards in scope:

Name of standard

Review recommendation

Arborist (level 2)

Retain this occupational standard and revise it to ensure it reflects recent developments in practice and changes in Institute policy.

The trailblazer group will also evaluate the level of this occupational standard against the Institute’s criteria when it is amended. Consultation respondents and those attending the Landex workshops commented that it was demanding for a level 2 apprenticeship.

Forest operative (level 2)

Retain this occupational standard and revise it to ensure it reflects recent developments in practice and changes in Institute policy.

The trailblazer group will also evaluate the level of this occupational standard against the Institute’s criteria when it is amended. Consultation respondents and those attending the Landex workshops commented that it was demanding for a level 2 apprenticeship.

Golf greenkeeper (level 2) and sports turf operative (level 2)

Retain both occupational standards and revise them to ensure they reflect recent developments in practice and changes in Institute policy.

Both trailblazer groups have also been asked to consider whether it would be appropriate to combine these occupational standards.

Horticulture and landscape operative (level 2)

Retain occupational standard and revise to ensure it reflects recent developments in practice and changes in Institute policy.

The trailblazer group will also evaluate the level of this occupational standard against the Institute’s criteria when it is amended. Consultation respondents and those attending the Landex workshops commented that it was demanding for a level 2 apprenticeship.

Horticulture and landscape supervisor (level 3)

Retain occupational standard and revise to ensure it reflects recent developments in practice and changes in Institute policy.

The trailblazer group will also evaluate the level of this occupational standard against the Institute’s criteria when it is amended. Consultation respondents and those attending the Landex workshops commented that it was demanding for a level 3 apprenticeship.

Pest control technician (level 2)

Review and update this occupational standard to ensure it best meets employer needs and changes in Institute policy. Re-establish the trailblazer group and appoint a new chair.

For the associated apprenticeship, explore with the trailblazer group how the Institute can provide support to get training providers and end-point assessment organisations on board. If it is not possible to bring together an active trailblazer group, the occupational standard will be removed, and the associated apprenticeship will no longer be available for delivery. The occupation will remain on the occupational map.

Stockperson (beef, pigs, sheep, dairy) (level 3)

This occupational standard will be withdrawn once general farm worker (level 2) and livestock unit manager (level 3) are approved. Review recommendations were therefore not required.

Equine groom (level 2)

Retain occupational standard and revise it to ensure it reflects developments in practice and changes in Institute policy.

The trailblazer group must review the options within the standard to ensure they meet current Institute criteria. Currently there are 5 options, and one has two options within it, this format does not meet our current criteria for core and options apprenticeships.

Revise to ensure each option within the occupational standard meets the Institute’s requirements for an occupation – including demonstrating employer demand and a minimum of 12 months training.

Senior equine groom (level 3)

Retain occupational standard and revise it to ensure it reflects developments in practice and changes in Institute policy.

The trailblazer group must review the options within the standard to ensure they meet current Institute criteria. Currently there are 5 options, and one has two options within it, this format does not meet our current criteria for core and options apprenticeships.

Revise to ensure each option within the occupational standard meets the Institute’s requirements for an occupation – including demonstrating employer demand and a minimum of 12 months training.

Animal trainer (level 4)

Retain this standard and revise it to ensure it reflects recent developments in practice and meets current Institute criteria.

A new trailblazer group chair needs to be appointed.

The outcomes of the review have been developed and shared with the relevant trailblazer groups. The Institute’s relationship managers will now work closely with them to update the occupational standards which will then be submitted through the Institute’s approval process, ideally within 12 months. As part of this process the updated occupational standards will also be reviewed to ensure they use accessible and gender-neutral language, maximising the appeal of the occupation and associated technical education programmes.

 It should be noted that the green apprenticeships advisory panel (GAAP) will be reviewing ‘green occupations’ and could recommend that further occupations are added to this route, or that existing occupational standards are amended to achieved greater alignment with the requirements of a ‘green workforce’.

Once the occupational standards have been amended, we will determine whether the apprenticeship end-point assessment plan and funding band and any relevant T Levels need to be updated to ensure alignment across all technical education programmes.  We aim to complete all this work within 24 months.

4. The Institute’s commitments to the agriculture, environmental and animal care route

In addition to updating the occupational map and occupational standards in scope of the review, the Institute is committed to doing the following:

To ensure availability and validity of technical education

Working with employers to identify new occupations

The review identified two new occupations that are ready to be developed into occupational standards by employers. We will continue to work with employers across the agriculture, environmental and animal care sectors to identify new occupations, add them to the maps and discuss the most appropriate technical education route into those occupations.

Protecting heritage skills

The review has identified some traditional heritage skills that are at risk; for example, dry-stone walling, sheep shearing, thatching and coppicing. It is estimated that there are almost 200,000 kilometres of dry-stone walls in the UK with many of them either derelict or in decay – suggesting a need for a skilled workforce that can build, maintain and repair these walls. In some cases, there are regional variations in the demand for heritage skills, meeting a local area’s historical needs that help provide many of the country’s distinctive identities such as the stone used in buildings or the style and materials used for thatched roofs. Traditional skills are often learnt through practice on-the-job, and apprenticeships could have an important role in protecting them. Defra’s 2020 Environmental and land management scheme includes ‘beauty, heritage and engagement with the natural environment’ as an area that it will support as a public good.

We will work with employers to develop a fuller list of at-risk skills and look at opportunities to include these in technical education programmes, including encouraging uptake where necessary. We also recognise that the number of starts on highly specialised apprenticeships may not be high, but this should not impact their delivery or how they are valued within the route and its occupational map.

Whilst a number of skills relevant to occupations within this route are becoming mechanised through advances in digital and satellite technology, the use of robotics and biotechnology in farming, horticulture and fishery sectors, for example, we recognise that it is important that we also make provision for heritage skills where an apprenticeship is an appropriate way of doing so and there is employer demand. We encourage employers interested in finding out more about apprenticeships and technical education, and how they may be able to support the continuation of heritage skills, to come forward and speak to the Institute.

Ensure that technical education in the route considers wider green recovery initiatives

The UK has a target to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, building a greener country in which skills will play a key part. The government is now planning to create and support 2 million high quality, green jobs by 2030 to support the UK to transition to net-zero. The Institute has set up a new green apprenticeships advisory panel (GAAP) to ensure that apprenticeships and technical education are front and centre of this ambition.

The approvals process for all technical education, including all agriculture, environmental and animal care programmes will ensure the needs of employers within the growing green economy are met.  This includes the creation of new standards to reflect new occupations that may, for example, contribute to meeting the challenge to reach net carbon zero.

Wherever possible, the Institute will also support the new Green Jobs Taskforce set up by the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and the Department for Education to develop an action plan for creating the necessary new green jobs and skills.

All sectors and occupations can help to contribute to a more sustainable economy and environment, relatively small changes can make a big difference and will help to provide visible benefits for organisations, society and the environment when used consistently across a sector. It is clear that wherever possible our technical education programmes need to support domestic and international initiatives to support clean energy and sustainability needs. Our recently published sustainability framework is a guide for trailblazer groups and all 15 route panels to help integrate sustainability into the development of new and updated apprenticeships and technical qualifications, educating the future workforce. Trailblazer groups using the framework will be able consider which sustainability characteristics are relevant to their occupations and how to adapt them into knowledge, skills and behaviours statements reflecting the occupational standard and its level.

We are supporting other government departments with their delivery of the tree action plan target to plant 30,000 hectares of trees per year by 2025 by providing information on how technical education can help to provide a skilled workforce.

We know that employers needs and the nature of occupations for the route are likely to continue to develop in the coming years, and we will continue to engage with employers to ensure these needs are met through technical education programmes.

To improve the accessibility of technical education

Ensuring apprenticeships and T Levels are suitable and transferable for all businesses

The agriculture, environmental and animal care sector has businesses of all sizes, from small farm shops to large global enterprises. Small and micro businesses are especially prevalent in the equine and agricultural industries. The review highlighted the challenges that smaller businesses have in finding the time and capacity to develop and deliver apprenticeships and technical education, and we are committed to working with them more effectively across all sectors. We appreciate this and will continue to ensure that small businesses can involve themselves in the development of apprenticeships, T Levels and other technical education. We are committed to ensuring continued compliance with our trailblazer group requirements which require the inclusion of small businesses in the development of occupational standards.

Stimulating end-point assessment organisations (EPAO) and training provider markets for apprenticeships

Some job roles within the sector are limited to particular geographical areas, for example, for forest operatives. As a result, it can be challenging for employers to attract providers and independent assessors for apprenticeships with the required level of skill and experience. Through the route panel and reviews, we will encourage employers across all routes to share knowledge and good practice with each other to benefit the wider community in overcoming potential barriers. In some cases, having regional partnerships in place may be helpful where there is limited demand in an area. We will also ensure that other government departments are made aware of potential barriers relating to specific apprenticeships for EPAOs and training providers.

Promoting diversity and inclusion

We will continue to ensure that our route panels, trailblazer and other groups bring together a broad range of employers to ensure that the content of apprenticeships, T Levels and wider technical education programmes clearly reflect the needs of different learners. This will keep diversity and inclusion at the forefront of decision-making. We will also continue to monitor the uptake of apprenticeships and other technical education programmes. Monitoring the uptake will provide us with information on where targeted schemes may be needed to encourage and support a more diverse cohort of learners that better represents the diversity within society.

Clarifying the opportunities for career progression

We will continue to work closely with employers in the route panel and trailblazers to develop ways to promote the route as providing excellent career opportunities for a wide range of learners with progression opportunities that go beyond levels 2 and 3. We want to increase the number of level 4 and 5 occupational standards available in the route in the future, we currently have 3 occupational standards approved for delivery and two in development at either level 4 or 5. At levels 6 or 7, there are four occupational standards approved for delivery and two more in development.

We plan to share more information about the specific progression routes available for different occupations as we develop the occupational maps, to empower learners to progress in their chosen careers and are committed to including all technical education programmes on the occupational maps, including T Levels and higher technical qualifications. This will raise awareness of the opportunities they provide for learners to progress their career, both within and between routes.

In the future, the occupational standards available within the route and the progression opportunities are likely to increasingly reflect advances in agri-tech or changes in regulatory requirements – requiring a workforce equipped with new knowledge and skills requirements in areas such as biotechnology or artificial intelligence. Following this route review, it will still be possible for trailblazer groups to continue to help evolve the occupational map to meet employers’ changing requirements. The Institute will proactively work with employers to identify emerging skills and new occupations to ensure the currency and relevance of technical education on the route.

To support economic recovery through the development and delivery of technical education during the COVID-19 pandemic

COVID-19 has had a significant impact on both employers and apprentices in the agriculture, environmental and animal care sectors. Restrictions nationally and locally over the past year have meant that businesses have had to be flexible and work hard to adjust to the restrictions.

The Institute is committed to supporting employers to deal with the significant challenge COVID-19 presents. We are helping to support the continued delivery of high-quality apprenticeships, whilst prioritising health and wellbeing. We are also working closely with the DfE, ESFA, HM Treasury, and the National Apprenticeship Service to ensure a joined-up approach.

You can find out more on our website about how the Institute is supporting the apprenticeship sector to deal with the significant challenge COVID-19 presents. If you are looking for help on a specific apprenticeship, please see our published list of additional flexibilities. At the time of publishing this summary report, nine apprenticeships within the route have additional flexibilities in place. We will keep this under review and make any further updates as required.

The Institute is also committed to continuing to work with employers to mitigate, as far as possible, the immediate impact of the pandemic, and understand the longer-term implications for the occupations within the route, apprenticeships and other technical education programmes.

5. Next steps

The outcomes of the review have been shared with the trailblazer groups for the occupational standards in scope. The Institute’s team of relationship managers will now work closely with those trailblazers to update the occupational standards. These will then be submitted through the Institute’s approvals process. We would normally expect any changes to the occupational standards and any associated with the apprenticeship end-point assessment plan to be completed within 12 months of the publication of our recommendations. However, we recognise the need for flexibility and will consult with the trailblazers and the wider route on the appropriate timelines to implement any changes. We will publish a more detailed report later this year.

The first T Levels in the agriculture, environmental and animal care route are in development and will be available in the following areas:

  • Agriculture, land management and production
  • Animal care and management

They will be available for first teaching in September 2023. More information on T Levels can be found on our website and on www.tlevels.gov.uk.

The next review to be completed will be the engineering and manufacturing route review. Further information on the status of each of our route reviews can be found on the Institute’s website.