Education pathways needed to address ageing farm sector

Education pathways needed to address ageing farm sector

Governments have a role to play in encouraging young people to seek careers in agriculture, Federal Member for Mayo Rebekha Sharkie told farmers at the Growing SA 2017 conference at Hahndorf last Friday.

Photograph: Chair of Primary Producers SA Rob Kerin, left, with some of the guest speakers at the Growing SA Conference held in Hahndorf on Friday - Federal Member for Mayo Rebekha Sharkie; State Agriculture, Food and Fisheries Minister Leon Bignell; State Opposition Spokesman on Agriculture, Primary Industries, Food and Wine David Ridgway; and Federal Assistant Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, SA Senator Anne Ruston.

The NXT Spokesperson for Agriculture said providing targeted education pathways was one practical way to assist the industry.

“One of my biggest concerns is the rapid ageing within the industry,” Rebekha said.

“Latest data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics puts the average age of a farmer at 56.

“It is crucial that we encourage new entrants into the industry to ensure long term sustainable farms and I believe this starts with education.”

Rebekha said one example was a program running at the Mansfield Secondary College in dairy country in north eastern Victoria where students in Years 9 and 10 could obtain nationally recognised vocational qualifications in agriculture by spending a day a week with a local farmer while also studying agscience and geography.

“This model introduces high school aged students to farm life,” Rebekha said.

“It helps farmers by giving them an extra pair of hands, and it gives the students a qualification.

“In Mansfield there have been over 150 students undertake the course since 2009 and many, not from the land, are now working in agriculture.

“One of the great strengths of the program is that any school could develop these partnerships, not just specialist ag schools, so it’s extremely cost effective.”

Rebekha said NXT and SA Best would welcome the opportunity to work with a newly elected State Government to explore education pathways into agriculture.

Among the other speakers at the conference were SA Agriculture Minister Leon Bignell, Opposition Spokesman for Agriculture David Ridgeway and Federal Assistant Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, SA Senator Anne Ruston.