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“This is my dream job”

06 March 2018 

Barclays runs the only agricultural apprenticeship programme in banking, giving candidates the chance to gain experience in the farming sector while earning a university level or professional qualification. We talk to two apprentices, Bethan Morgan and Samuel Youds, about ‘earning while you learn’ – and why they are passionate about supporting farmers.

Bethan Morgan had been working as a Barclays personal banker for six years when the opportunity arose to move into agricultural support for the bank. “I’m from a farming background,” she says. “I grew up on a border farm in Wales – the local rugby pitch is the only place you can score a try at one end in England and the other end in Wales! I still live on the farm near Llanfair Waterdine in Shropshire with my family and my partner George, a contract shepherd.”

You don’t just spend an hour with a client in a meeting room – you build a real relationship with them.

Bethan already knew how important agricultural managers are to farmers, and now she’s excited to be making a difference herself. “I had one customer say he wouldn’t be where he is today without Barclays’ support. Managers really do look after their customers the whole way through,” she says. “It’s a really good job, and it’s a really nice job too. You don’t just spend an hour with a client in a meeting room, but you build a real relationship with them. I had one appointment with a farmer where his dog spent the entire time resting his head on my knee.”

Bethan is one of six successful applicants to Barclays’ new agricultural apprenticeship scheme announced in September last year – the first ever offered by the banking industry. Based across the UK, the three-year apprenticeship scheme offers candidates the opportunity to gain a university level or professional qualification, with the aim of becoming an agricultural relationship manager within the bank.

“Every day is different”

With her base branch in Shrewsbury, Bethan mainly works in North Wales. “Every day is different,” she says. “If I’m not doing lending applications or going out on farm visits, I’m off to livestock meetings or auctions. There are so many different things to learn.” Her favourite part of the programme so far has been client visits. “The farmers are so passionate about their business, and they’re really keen to show you what they’re working on. My family farm is a sheep and beef farm, so it’s been really interesting learning about something completely different, like dairy or arable farming. This is honestly the best job I’ve ever had.”

One thing that has surprised her is how varied today’s farms need to be. Bethan says: “The scale of diversification is amazing. One farm I visited had holiday lets, kennels, a cattery, a riding school for disabled children, a community centre for people with mental disabilities and traditional farming! Every door you went through led to something else.” She believes this diversification is the future of farming. “People don’t realise how much farming has embraced change and technology; dairy farming is now essentially milking by robots. There are exciting times ahead.”

Being a farmer isn’t just about running a farm – it’s your home and your history too. I love that I get to be a part of that.

Bethan is a member of the rural youth organisation Young Farmers and says there’s a growing interest in farming amongst young people. She says: “Lots of them don’t have a family farm any more, but farming is a way of life. Once you’re in it, you’re in it. When my apprenticeship has finished, I’d love to become an agricultural manager – that’s the dream – and help the next generation of young farmers achieve their dreams too. Being a farmer isn’t just about running a farm – it’s your home and your history too. I love that I get to be a part of that.”

“I’m given freedom and responsibility”

While Bethan has always been keen to get into agricultural relationship management, Samuel Youds was unaware that the role even existed until he discovered the apprenticeship programme. “I came straight out of sixth form college and applied for the programme,” he says. “When I found out I got one of the agricultural apprentice positions, I took it and I haven’t looked back since.”

Although he is not from a farming family, Sam grew up in a very rural area in South Cheshire where a lot of his friends lived on farms. He says: “It’s not a massive surprise I ended up in agriculture. I spent a lot of time on farms during my school holidays, so I already had some knowledge and an understanding of the lifestyle. But I’m learning so much on the job; I’m keen to gain even more experience and keep developing.”

The flexibility of the apprenticeship programme really appealed to Sam. “I worried that other apprenticeships would be very controlling and regimented, or I’d be stuck in one location. With the agricultural scheme, I’m given the freedom and responsibility to do what I need to do, when I need to do it. I thrive off that, so it’s been great from a development perspective. I feel like I’ve matured a couple of years in just a couple of months.”

The wonderful thing about this job is getting to see some of the most beautiful parts of the country.

And there are no concerns about never leaving the office. Sam says: “I don’t have a typical working day! I could be based at my branch in Nantwich, Cheshire, one day, organising meetings or taking conference calls, and the next I’m driving up to Kendal or Penrith in Cumbria. The wonderful thing about this job is getting to see some of the most beautiful parts of the country. Last week, I went to visit two fantastic farms in Anglesey, Wales. It was a really good day meeting some great people surrounded by some lovely views!”

“I do feel really lucky”

Sam is also proud that he’ll gain a university-level qualification at the end of the apprenticeship, and can ‘earn while you learn’. “My girlfriend goes to university, but when she’s finished she’ll be £50,000 to £60,000 in debt. I will have earned that in the same amount of time, will have a qualification and years of experience under my belt,” he says. “At school, I never thought I’d be able to do this, so I do feel very fortunate.”

Apart from learning about the agricultural sector, Sam says the apprenticeship has taught him a lot about himself too. He says: “I was a typical teenager – always late for everything. But I’m surprised at how well I’ve adapted to the ‘real world’. Now, I’m getting up at 6.30am, getting on with lots of different people, and have been given a lot of responsibility. When people used to talk about joining the nine-to-five it really put me off, as it sounded very limiting. But this apprenticeship is not a boring nine-to-five: it doesn’t feel like a real job at all.”

Further details about Barclays foundation and higher apprenticeships

Read the Northern Powerhouse Partnership’s Educating the North report.