Finding a farm administrator is like finding a needle in a haystack
For a farm business to be effective and efficient requires all its component parts to be well tuned and working in harmony with each other.
It’s just like a well-tuned engine which sounds great, performs well and is reliable when required. If one component fails, for example the timing belt snaps, then the engine grinds to a halt and will not work again without a major overhaul.
Farm businesses are no different. Sure, they can carry on to some effect when a member of staff is off work or a piece of machinery is broken. There are ways of getting around things enabling the business to carry on in some way. If the problem is not fixed, depending on the problem, then a farm business can come to a grinding halt or be severely damaged.
If you talk to many farmers you will hear different problems and concerns, but one problem that farmers worry about the most, and it is present all year round, is the maintaining and upkeep of all the records, accounts and administration of running a farm business. It is a lot to take in whether we are talking about Farm Assurance, Basic Farm Payment, PAYE, VAT, farm accounts, health & safety, and so on.
We hear a lot about the difficulty of attracting good staff, but the one area that farmers find the most difficult is finding a person to ‘do the books’ - in other words, maintaining the office-type procedures and systems. This is the real hub of a business.
A good farm administrator can organise and sort out the statutory requirements of the farm business, making the business effective and efficient. You will not have to worry about VAT inspections, you will be able to reduce your accountant's time and therefore reduce the accountant's bill, PAYE will be calculated properly and suppliers will be paid on time, so reducing penalties and interest charges.
But finding a good farm administrator is like finding a needle in a haystack. One of the reasons is that there are no full time nationally recognised qualifications developed for colleges to deliver and meet this demand. Well, all is about to change. The new BTEC Higher National Diploma qualification in Agriculture, which comes out for delivery in September 2018, has many occupational pathways and one of these pathways is Rural Business Administration supported by the Institute of Agricultural Secretaries and Administrators (IAgSA).
This new qualification will enable colleges to deliver vocational education and training to people (full or part time) with the necessary experience and skills to tackle the major problems and concerns that many farm businesses have.
If you are interested in a rewarding career contact your nearest land-based college and ask about the new BTEC suite of Higher National qualifications.
Chris Jones is involved in land-based education, training, and mentoring.