A strange dichotomy currently exists in Australian agriculture, with overseas investors believing the sector has enormous potential, while Australian students are ignoring the opportunity to pursue agriculture as a career.
Over the past twenty five years, for example, overseas investment in agriculture has almost doubled, while the number of students completing agricultural degree in Australia has decreased by more than 40 percent.
This discrepancy between foreign and domestic interest in agriculture is a vexed question for groups like the Australian Council of Deans of Agriculture (ACDA), a group formed in 2007 to tackle the issue of decreasing University agricultural enrolments.
An occasional paper prepared for the Australian Farm Institute by ACDA secretary, Professor Jim Pratley, from Adelaide's Charles Sturt University, analyses this issue in some detail, and examines available evidence about agricultural course enrolments and graduate job opportunities in agriculture in Australia.
Professor Pratley has collected and analysed detailed data regarding students’ enrolments in agricultural degrees over the past decade. He has also updated data on agricultural employment demand by examining job vacancy advertisements.
The paper clearly outlines that with a strong employment market on one side and a decreasing availability of graduates on the other, the Australian agriculture sector is at risk of not being able to take full advantage of the opportunities that are currently unfolding as wealth grows in Asian nations.
AFI publications including “Professional Agriculture – A Case of Supply and Demand” are available for free download here for registered AFI users.