UK potato industry urged to unite on education


18 July 2023
'Take action to inspire the next generation' call comes as research unveiled at House of Lords.

LEAF Education, the agri-education organisation in England and Wales, is encouraging the UK potato industry, as a collective, to take action to inspire the next generation, having just unveiled the full results of research of 2,500 young people.

The research, in partnership with McDonald’s UK and Harper Adams’ School of Sustainable Food and Farming, was revealed at an event hosted at the House of Lords.

Whilst the majority of young people have not had the opportunity to learn about the agri-food industry in school (66%), 75% believe that agriculture and food education should play a larger part in the school curriculum. The research looks at how much of a ‘conscious consumer’ the next generation are, with results showing that teens are certainly keen to know and understand more, with 80% wanting to learn more about sustainable food choices. 

They also highlighted a trust in supermarkets and big brands to make those sustainability decisions on their behalf, before products hit the shelves or restaurants (65%). 

Young people are now calling for a better understanding of environmental labelling – far above carbon cost, food miles and how choices they make can have a bigger impact on the climate crisis. Of those surveyed, 84% stated that with the right and clear information, environmental sustainability would be their number one factor in purchasing food, overriding cost or convenience.

The research also found that young people are generally positive about careers in the agri-food industry, describing possible career opportunities as ‘rewarding’, ‘well paid’, ‘resilient’, and ‘fulfilling’. They also recognise that the industry offers careers that can have a positive impact on and are important for the environment but lack specific information about job opportunities available and the practical steps on how to enter the industry. 

Carl Edwards, LEAF Director, Education and Public Engagement, said: “We know that young people choose their future career and next steps by age 16 or 17, but at the moment they do not have a good understanding of what a career in the agri-food industry looks like – what roles there are, land-based colleges and universities and what career progression is available. They require further guidance on how to link their school subjects to agriculture-related careers and express a clear interest in attending on-farm experiential learning to see and learn more about different career paths in agriculture.” 

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The findings also reveal that young people are hugely positive about the agri-food industry, with 90% stating that we should all appreciate and have a better connection to where our food comes from. 

“As our population becomes more diverse, farmers and agriculturalists need to understand young people’s changing perceptions of the agri-food industry as a possible workplace," said Carl. "Three in five of the teenagers see food and farming as a welcoming industry to new entrants from diverse communities, believing that the food sector especially seeks diverse voices to support with product development, as well as providing more offers and opportunities in supermarkets for those with diverse and different food cultures.

“The insights in this study are hugely valuable. Not just for future careers in our sector but as future consumers. Teenagers recognise the industry’s importance to their lives, but there’s more to be done to make them informed and conscious consumers of the future. LEAF will now look to lead and convene industry leaders to ensure we collectively deliver and achieve on the outcomes of the research.”

The research is a culmination of almost a year of working with young people across the UK and together LEAF Education, the School of Sustainable Food and Farming at Harper Adams and McDonald’s UK and their Progressive Young Farmers have delivered something that has real results for industry to deliver against.

LEAF Education is now calling on the industry, as a collective, to inspire the future generation to get involved by:
•    Offering work experience placements to provide young people with practical insights into the different career options in agriculture
•    Providing clear guidance on how to link school subjects to agriculture-related careers
•    Asking industry professionals, agriculture colleges, and apprentices to talk directly with young people and share their experiences and knowledge with them
•    Developing a programme for young people to join during their sixth form with different agriculture industry placements offered – a few days, weekends, or during school holidays to provide them with varied experiences and touchpoints
•    Offering teacher training and Continuing Professional Development (CPD) for teachers on career guidance to support them in providing the right information to their students.

For more information on how to get involved, click here.

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