Postgrad training keeps best and brightest in agriculture

Beef Central, 08/11/2014

THE meat industry’s best and brightest young minds are choosing long-term careers in agriculture thanks to an innovative and challenging post-graduate training program boasting a 90 percent retention rate.

The student researchers are sponsored by industry bodies including the former Beef CRC, Meat & Livestock Australia, the Australian Meat Processor Corporation, and the Cooperative Research Centre for Sheep Industry Innovation (Sheep CRC).

Tracking of postgraduates who have participated in the program since 2008 has revealed that 70pc have since found employment directly within the sheep and cattle industries, and 90pc have been retained more broadly within agriculture.

Most of the graduates of the program have been employed directly within research teams or in academic positions.

The current crop of 23 post-graduate researchers this week attended the program’s annual conference and professional development workshop held in Sydney.

“The post-graduate program is designed to not only benefit industry through the valuable research these students conduct, but to also deliver long-term benefits in the form of highly skilled scientists with clear career paths in agricultural industry,” program coordinator Dr Graham Gardner of Murdoch University said.

The annual training conference provides the post-graduates with the opportunity to gain valuable feedback about their work from some of the industry’s most experienced scientists, and to learn new skills from outside of their chosen field of research.

“We create a challenging, yet supportive environment so that the toughest audience they face is the one in place right here,” Dr Gardner said.

The students also receive professional development targeting a range of topics rotated on a year-to-year basis, with this year’s workshop delivered by Cox Inall Communications and focussed on improving their ability to communicate complex scientific research to stakeholders along the entire meat production supply chain.

Students were also asked to present their research as a written conference abstract and as an oral presentation in a formal conference setting, with verbal and written feedback provided by a panel of 10 senior scientists.

This year’s panel was made up of Sheep CRC CEO Professor James Rowe; Sheep CRC genomics program leader Prof Julius van der Werf; Sheep CRC sheep-meat program leader Prof David Pethick, of Murdoch University; Dr Wayne Hall, MLA; Dr Darryl D’Souza, APL; Dr Paul Greenwood, of the NSW Department of Primary Industries; Prof Frank Dunshea, of the University of Melbourne; and Prof Ian Lean, of the University of Sydney.

The panel awarded Murdoch University PhD candidate and MLA sponsored researcher Sarah Bonny the prize for best overall presentation of her MLA-sponsored research, which is testing areas to improve the national meat quality assurance scheme, Meat Standards Australia.

“It is a really valuable week for all of the post-graduate student researchers because we receive an intense critique of our work from some of the best in the business,” Dr Bonny said.

“We have also gained some invaluable new skills to improve our communication of our research to producers, industry and other scientists,” she said.

“Being able to share that experience with 22 other post-grads was fantastic and I’m sure the networks we have formed will create opportunities for future research collaboration.”


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