Supporting the next generation of agricultural engineers is vital and this year’s Midlands Machinery Show will be recognising up and coming talent.

The Newark & Nottinghamshire Agricultural Society’s (NNAS) Midlands Agricultural Engineering Apprenticeship Award is back for its fifth year – championing the next generation of agricultural engineers.

“The Midlands forms the heartland of agriculture: A network of farming enterprises, agri-businesses and machinery dealerships full of talent and dedicated individuals,” says Simon Eccleston, CEO of NNAS.

“We started up this award five years ago when it became apparent that there was no specific funding award for young people who had chosen one of the many career options within agricultural engineering.

“The award aims to raise the profile of the sector and support young people from diverse backgrounds and skill-sets to develop the abilities they need to embark on successful agricultural careers.”

Up for grabs is £500 for each successful applicant, recognising their hard work. Entries are open until 15 October 2021 to agricultural apprentices aged 17-25 in the Midlands region.

Frazer Cross was one of four winners in 2020 – so how’s he getting on?

Going into his third year of an Agco agricultural engineering apprenticeship, Mr Cross is well on track to becoming a fully qualified technician. Completing block release rotations – two months in work, one month in college – no one day is the same, he says.

“I started at B&B Tractors in Mansfield in 2019, after working in the automotive trade for three years – after eight months I decided I wanted to become qualified and I started my apprenticeship that September.

“The day to day is so varied; calls are always coming in so you might be in the workshop one day and out on farm on another. I am really enjoying the apprenticeship – I just enjoy being around tractors and the challenge of the different mechanics involved,” he adds.

And while tractors are a draw, it’s the crop sprayers that he sees as his specialism. “For a lot of farmers, the sprayer will be the most important piece of kit,” he says.

“There’s a lot of satisfaction in learning the skills that enable me to go out onto a farm and get these machines up and running again when they run into trouble.”

Winning the NNAS agricultural engineering award has given Mr Cross confidence and helped him build trust with his customers as an apprentice technician – and helped fill his toolbox with some quality tools.

“I’d encourage anyone to look at agricultural engineering as a career path,” he says. “Your heart’s got to be in it and it’s hard work, but when it’s harvest time and you’ve got a farmer going again after a breakdown, it’s really satisfying.”

And where does he hope to be in 10 years’ time? “My aspirations are to be a top technician in my field and be in a position where I am able to pass on my knowledge.”

At this year’s event Mr Cross will be joined by his fellow 2020 award winners, Owen Bradley, Liam Wright and Lewis Woodward, in receiving the second half of their winners funding, says event manager Elizabeth Halsall.

“We look forward to welcoming both past and present winners to the showground – alongside the many young people who are yet to embark on their agricultural career paths,” she says. “We hope the celebration of young people will not only foster a talented generation but encourage others to join the fold.”