A South West college has fought off stiff competition from the likes of Waitrose to win the national Feeding Britain’s Future employer award.

Duchy College, part of The Cornwall College group (TCCG), won for its innovative project that gives young unemployed an experience of farming.

The two-week programme saw the participants undergo a week of practical training at Duchy College where the learnt tractor driving skills and worked with livestock.

It was followed by a week of work experience on local farms organised through charity, Farm Cornwall.

Employment Adviser for the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) Jane Milligan, explained why she nominated the team that lead the course, Roger Clarke and Andrea Hickman.

She said: “I work with a lot of providers and innovative programmes to support people back into work, but on this occasion it was I feel the environment and Andrea and Roger that made such a difference to these candidates.

“The group of lads on the course all came with some issue, long term unemployment, learning disability/severe dyslexia, autism, anger management issues, under achievement, lack of motivation, previous convictions etc. They all volunteered and applied to do the course and came in for an interview with Roger. We did not anticipate all of the candidates would turn up, nor did we expect them all to impress Roger at interview. To our and their delight, Roger found a spark of potential in each one and agreed to take them all. Roger even arranged transport via the college mini buses to and from College.”

Ms Milligan also praised Roger’s ability to get the group working well as a team and to achieve 100% commitment and attendance. Three of the group also asked if they could they continue with the English and Maths elements of the course.

“This is an award that is thoroughly deserved and warranted and I am really delighted that Roger and Andrea’s talents have been recognised,” she said.

“I nominated Roger and Andrea and Duchy College for the Feeding Britain’s Future Award as I felt they from the start were open to supporting the group to realising their individual potential, regardless of their backgrounds or previous history or achievements or lack of. Each was given a chance to be an individual and a chance to shine and learn new skills in a fully supported environment, but also pushed to achieve, with a healthy taste of realism and humour.”

Mr Clarke sees the project as a “great opportunity for the college to support youngsters who are currently out of employment”.

He said: “This two week programme really does help to get the basic skills in place in order get a foot on the ladder and to start a career within the sector.”