21 October 2020
Carmarthenshire-born farmer’s daughter Elena Davies describes herself as a ‘hands-on’ farmer. Already running her successful self-employed farm contracting business, with a helping hand from Farming Connect, Elena is now investing in her own professional development. Thanks to Farming Connect’s increased range of ‘distance’ learning options, all either fully funded or subsidised by up to 80%, she has been able to study a number of new business skills that she hopes will help her grow her business.
Elena has built up a loyal local customer base and is in demand year on year, mainly for freeze branding cattle and providing milking services in West Wales. She’s also adept at driving heavy farm machinery, saying she enjoys all aspects of farming and being both physically and mentally challenged.
Elena obtained a National Diploma in Agriculture at Coleg Sir Gar at the Gelli Aur campus, before moving on to Harper Adams University for her Higher National Diploma. Her course included a year out with a government agency in Cardiff where she enjoyed her stint on the ‘other’ side of the industry, working as an animal health officer.
“I always wanted a career in agriculture, but my key ambition has always been to build up my reputation as a self-employed contractor,” says Elena.
Now in her late 30s, she has found no shortage of contracting work but believes that this is the time to start planning ahead.
“Freeze branding up to 10,000 cows a year and carrying out heavy duty tasks is all well and good when you are at the peak of physical fitness but thanks to Farming Connect’s lifelong learning and development programme, I’m now learning new skills and acquiring more knowledge on the administrative and financial management side too.”
Elena has just completed a digitally-delivered learning course ‘Minding Your Own Business’ which comprises two workshops created and delivered by the IAgSA (Institute of Agricultural Secretaries and Administrators) training team and provided by approved Farming Connect training consultancy Simply the Best Training Ltd.
The course, which included two day-long workshops, covered completing VAT returns and year end accounts as well as working with fixed and variable costs, gross margins and profitability. Elena was able to undertake the whole course via Zoom from her home-office.
“I found the workbook-based course, which was subsidised by 80%, very informative and with only four students and a tutor, there was plenty of time to ask our own questions.
“Although the topics we studied were all areas I had knowledge of through running my own self-employed business, I learned a lot of new skills and in time, plan to offer some of these administrative services to other farmers too,” says Elena.
Many of Farming Connect’s business, ICT, financial, marketing and animal health related courses are currently being delivered digitally.
“Covid 19 has put limitations on so many things we usually take for granted, but I found this ‘remote’ approach a very convenient and beneficial way of strengthening my knowledge and skill set, especially for office-based skills.” says Elena.
Now a firm fan of ‘digital’ or long-distance learning, Elena is already planning the next stage of her personal development.
“I intend to apply for Farming Connect’s fully-subsidised one-to-one ‘remote’ computer training, because I’m eager to put all my new knowledge to good use and learn how to utilise computers more efficiently, so that I can provide more administrative or financial services online.”
Elena also plans to undertake some of Farming Connect’s fully funded e-learning modules and intends to sign up for animal health courses linked with cattle.
“E-learning is a new concept for me, but I can’t wait to start building up my knowledge because it’s a way of studying that I can do at my own pace from home, which is very appealing.”
Every course or e-learning module Elena undertakes through Farming Connect will be added to her secure, online ‘Storfa Sgiliau’ account, providing a record of her continuous professional development journey each step of the way. She’s also planning to use Storfa Sgiliau to help her update her cv as she completes more courses and acquires more skills.
The current skills application window is open now and will close at 07:00 on Friday, 30 October 2020. For further information on Farming Connect skills, training and Storfa Sgiliau click here.
Farming Connect, which is delivered by Menter a Busnes and Lantra, has received funding through the Welsh Government Rural Communities - Rural Development Programme 2014-2020, which is funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and the Welsh Government.