Education and Training
Attracting, training and retaining the next generation is a priority issue for the agricultural sector, and the NFF plays an active role in projects and partnerships in agricultural education, training and skills development.
Agriculture's scarcest resource: people
The NFF believes that if Australian agriculture is going to have a strong and sustainable future, then we must invest in our most important resource – people.
There are many challenges facing agriculture's human resources: the labour force is ageing, there are fewer young people entering agriculture, and drought and other competing industries have had a significant impact on the amount of labour available.
Yet the career opportunities available in agriculture are enormous. Career options include farmers and farm managers, animal nutritionists, plant breeders and soil scientists, agronomists, natural resource managers, quarantine officers, journalists, policy advisers, commodity marketers... all the way through to those who rely on agricultural produce, like chefs, winemakers and fashion designers. While agriculture itself employs 307,000 people, the wider agricultural supply chain employs 1.6 million Australians.
And, according to recent statistics, there is a surplus of jobs available. NFF estimates show that agriculture needs around 100,000 workers to return agriculture to pre-drought levels. For every agricultural graduate there are 2.5 jobs available, and with the average age of farmers now at 52, the number of jobs will only increase as many people within the industry reach retirement age.
The NFF believes education is a vital component of ensuring the longevity of the agricultural sector - from primary school children right through to tertiary students - in order to encourage greater interest in agricultural careers, and to help build understanding of where food and fibre comes from. This is why the NFF is a founding member of the Primary Industries Education Foundation (PIEF), and was one of the driving forces behind its creation.
Then, as students begin their agricultural career, it is essential that the right skills, training and education opportunities are available to ensure students are well prepared for the roles ahead (one of the reasons why NFF remains a strong supporter of Rural Skills Australia), and that career development and leadership opportunities are available.
For more on the role NFF is playing in helping to solve the issue, see the Agricultural Education, Skills, Training and Labour Working Group below or view the NFF's recent submissions on education, training and skills.
For a summary of the labour shortages in the agricultural sector or to view the NFF's 2008 Labour Shortage Action Plan, download the documents below.
Agricultural Education, Skills, Training and Labour Working Group
The NFF is taking an active role in bringing together the education, skills, training and labour sectors to work towards a collaborative solution to the education and labour shortage issues facing Australian agriculture.
In February 2012, the NFF convened an Industry Roundtable, bringing together 50 industry, government and education representatives as the first step towards finding practical solutions. From this Industry Roundtable, an Education, Skills, Training and Labour Working Group has been established involving key industry leaders to drive solutions.
The NFF is playing a facilitation role, as we appreciate that the issues are larger than any one group alone. Real outcomes in this area will rely on collaboration and coordination of industry, government and the education sector, hence the Working Group is taking an active leadership role on behalf of Australian agriculture.
For more information, view the NFF’s 2011 Submission to the Senate Inquiry into higher education, skills and training in agriculture, or the NFF's 2012 media release re the Industry Roundtable.
Primary Industries Education Foundation
The Primary Industries Education Foundation (PIEF) is an independent, not-for-profit organisation aimed at delivering food and fibre education programs to primary and high school children across the country, and ensuring agriculture is factored into the national curriculum.
Research by PIEF in March 2012 found that 75 percent of children believe cotton is an animal product and 27 percent think yoghurt is a plant product. The research clearly shows that more needs to be done to build children's understanding of where food and fibre comes from: exactly why the PIEF exists.
The PIEF is dedicated to raising the profile and awareness of farming among students to foster greater understanding and appreciation of farming's relevance to the everyday lives of Australians, and to encourage more students to consider agricultural-related careers.
The NFF is a founding member of PIEF, and was one of the driving forces behind its creation. The NFF helped bring together agricultural groups, educators, peak bodies and the Australian Government to pioneer the PIEF, meeting the educational needs of schools, teachers and students.
For more information, contact the PIEF Chair Cameron Archer or CEO Ben Stockwin on 02 6198 3271 or visit the PIEF website.
Rural Skills Australia
Rural Skills Australia provides advice and assistance on rural and related skills and training to the NFF and our membership, as well as Australian Apprenticeship Centres, Jobs Services Australia members, registered training organisations and and group training organisations.
Formed by the NFF in 1995 through funding from the National Employment and Training Taskforce (NETTFORCE), Rural Skills Australia works to improve rural involvement in education and training, and enhances the skills and capacities of those in agriculture.
Rural Skills Australia has contributed significantly to increasing the number of rural and related traineeship and apprenticeship commencements each year, with a view to combating an ageing rural workforce and shrinking rural communities, and to equipping the next generation of rural workers with transferable, recognised and valued skills.
For more, visit the Rural Skills Australia website.
The NFF is a proud supporter of FarmDay – an annual national program that invites city families onto farms across Australia on a designated weekend in May to experience life on a farm, learn about food and fibre production and see farming practices first hand.
Concord residents Mark and Rachel Batkin and their children, Amy, 12, and Nathan, 9, spent a weekend with NFF President Jock Laurie on the Laurie family beef, cross bred lamb and fine wool sheep property at Walcha as part of FarmDay 2011.
Mr Laurie believes FarmDay provides a unique opportunity for farmers to talk one-on-one with a city family to build understanding of farming life and how food and fibre is grown. The Batkin's family visit was featured on ABC’s Landline in July 2011 (watch the program here).
The NFF encourages farmers to take part in the annual event, with ever-increasing interest from city families wishing to take part. In 2012, three city families were registered for each farm.
FarmDay is a not-for-profit organisation, founded by former national RIRDC Rural Women’s Award winner, and Victorian wool and lamb producer, Deb Bain.
Pictured right: NFF President Jock Laurie teaches young Nathan Batkin to drive a tractor on the Laurie family farm at Walcha.
For more information, call 1300 367 036 or visit the FarmDay website.
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