Young people, education providers and the industry are the keys to solving the skills shortage around the agricultural sector, according to a recently commissioned independent report.
The Rebuilding the Agriculture Workforce report (see full document here) was commissioned recently by the Business/Higher Education Roundtable (B-HERT) which reviews the effectiveness of current initiatives designed to attract more people with higher education qualifications in the agricultural workforce.
The 12 strategies suggested in the document are grouped into three broad areas:
- Targeting young people through schools and other activities
- Involving development of product offerings (degree programs, fee discounts) to education providers, and
- Building stronger links with the industry.
The workforce issue in the agriculture sector may see the light of day if the Federal Government supports the formation of a new body to overhaul the way the sector attracts, educates and retains workers.
A recent roundtable discussion took place among leading industry bodies, AgriFood Skills Australia, the AgriBusiness Council of Australia, Business/Higher Education Roundtable (B-HERT), and the Primary Industry Centre for Science Education (PICSE).
These industry bodies coordinated education-focused discussions and outcomes which were presented to the Parliamentary Secretary of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Sid Sidebottom.
The discussion aims to seek endorsement to form a new council to take on the responsibility of completely overhauling the delivery of agricultural education, and for the implementation of a major campaign to change public perception of agriculture.
The formation of a new council was a key recommendation from a report commissioned by B-HERT to revive the agricultural workforce.
Chairman of the AgriBusiness Council of Australia, Ian Joseph, said the new council would help future-proof the industry by improving educational links and options so the industry can innovate, increase productivity and grow to meet global challenges such as food security.
The report outlines the factors contributing to the skills shortage and the declining enrolment in agriculture higher education as well as the 12 intervention strategies identified.
Many of these factors are not unfamiliar – labour competition from other industries, poor promotion of the industry, an ageing population and declining rural population, to name a few.
Chief executive officer of AgriFood Skills Australia, Arthur Blewitt, said the report provided a comprehensive scan of the current agricultural sector and outlined what industry needed to do to achieve a vision of ensuring sustainable growth of Australia’s agrifood industries through world class enterprise capability.
“Integral to the employment of rural and regional Australia, agriculture is a knowledge intensive sector with a strong demand for skilled professionals,” he said.
Director of AWX, Cameron Dart said with the correct approach to engagement, suitable training and recruitment process to produce the next generation of agri-graduates, the agricultural sector will have the potential to remain a thriving and sustainable industry.
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AWX Agribusiness reader poll:
Do you think Fair Work Australia's recent minimum wage increase has considered the agricultural sector in terms of its profitability?
Australia’s Minimum Wage is set to increase by 2.9 percent from July 1, following FWA's recent decision.The increase will see the minimum hourly wage increase by 45c to $15.96 (full time rate, an increase from last year’s $15.51) and the weekly wage to $606.40 (an increase from $589.30). At $17 per week, the increase is more than the recommendation proposed by the National Farmers Federation’s submission to FWA, which was at $10 per week.
Click here to register your poll response, via Survey Monkey.
Results will be published in coming weeks.