19 April 2014

Hazel encourages families to get on course


Farmers and farm family members are being encouraged to enroll on a course this autumn to improve their skills both on and off the farm.

Hazel McKeown, a busy mum from Eskra, Co. Tyrone, is one of the previous recipients of a Farm Family Options Skills Training Grant and is encouraging others to grasp the opportunity to improve their skills. Hazel, whose husband Winston, runs the family farm, previously worked outside the home but is now raising her five children while assisting her husband with the farm business. “I already managed some aspects of the administration, including farm records, using a computer but I heard that VAT returns could now be completed online so I decided to go back to study to learn how to do that and other useful book-keeping skills”, says Hazel. Hazel undertook OCR Level 1 Book-Keeping and OCR Level 2 Computerised Accounts with a local accredited training provider. She found the courses so beneficial that she intends to do more in the future. “I would encourage anyone from a farm family who would like to improve their skills to undertake training to apply for this grant” says Hazel, “It has already been a great benefit in dealing with the day to day running of the business”. Farm Family Options is funded by the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) and the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) as part of the Rural Development Programme 2007-2013. Under the Skills Training element of the Programme financial assistance of up to £1,000 is available towards training fees of eligible courses being undertaken by the farmer, their spouse/partner and children aged 17 or over. An associated training allowance of up to £250 per family member is also available to cover time away from the farm to participate in the training. The current call is seeking applications from farm family members wishing to undertake accredited courses (no higher than NVQ Level 3) that operate on an academic year intake and that are currently enrolling. If you are interested please apply quickly as the closing date for applications is Wednesday 22nd September at 12 noon. A further call will be opened in the Autumn which will facilitate short courses that run throughout the year. Hazel has advice for anyone concerned about complicated form filling in applying for the grant “The form was easy to complete, the staff in RDC were great to deal with and the assistance with course fees really helped”. Hazel felt the training suited her as it was easily slotted into family life “Other stay at home mums assisting on the farm should consider training in this way as it has kept me in touch with up to date technology and improved my skills” she commented. As a result of her experience she is encouraging those farm family members who are eligible and have training in mind to apply for the grant, “Applying for the grant and achieving success with the course has really boosted my confidence in assisting with the business. Who knows what I’ll do next!!” laughs Hazel. For more information on how to apply to Farm Family Options in order to access a training grant and / or free advice and mentoring support which is also available, please contact the Farm Family Options team on 0845 026 7534, email options@countrysiderural.co.uk or view the website www.countrysiderural.co.uk Closing date for receipt of applications is Wednesday 22nd September at 12 noon. Further information and application packs are available by contacting the Farm Family Options Team at 0845 026 7534 or email options@countrysiderural.co.uk

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