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Farming given boost under Govt’s new skills commitment

31 August 2007

THE National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) has driven initiatives to meet farming’s existing and future skills needs – and meet the surge in employment opportunities that will bring – as parts of the sector gear up to emerge from drought.

“We recently brought home to the Australian Government the absolute necessity to attract apprentices and develop skills, education and training across agriculture, to meet our future workforce needs,” NFF President David Crombie said.

“Australian agriculture is facing unprecedented demand for labour and today the Australian Government moved to address our specific needs.

“We estimate farming requires an additional 50,000 to 70,000 employees – across unskilled, skilled and highly skilled positions – just to return farm capacity to pre-drought levels.

“Further, the ability to attract, train and retain workers in rural trades serves the long-term prospects of employees, regional communities and the farm businesses that rely on them.

“Today the Government responded by enabling agricultural and horticultural apprentices to access the $800 Toolkit for Trades and the $1,000 Apprenticeship Training (Fee) Voucher, under its new $47.7 million package.

“We’re especially pleased the Government has listened to farming’s specific concerns. Before today, the system of apprenticeship incentives had excluded farming from these initiatives, placing major constraints on future farm capacity.

“The Australian farm sector’s ability to build upon the $103 billion a year it contributes to the national economy, and supporting one-in-six Australian jobs, is premised on being able to attract apprentices and develop the skills necessary for our workforce.

“The incentives program announced today, starting at Certificate II level, will enable us to attract and retain employees in regional and rural Australia.

“Modern farming requires new and evolving skills and it is important that future apprentices looking for a career in farming have the necessary support and incentives within the training system to enter, and excel in, the workforce.

“We greatly appreciate the cooperation of the Minister for Vocational and Further Education, The Hon Andrew Robb MP, who has taken on board, and responded to, farmers’ needs. We look forward to fleshing out further initiatives to overcome the skills shortage confronting Australian farms.”

The NFF is placing a great deal of emphasis on the education, training and skill needs of the farming workforce, and is engaged in a range of capacity building activities, including:

  • The ‘2007 Trade Teacher of the Year’ Awards – three rural categories valued at $10,000 each – for educators in agriculture, horticulture and conservation and land management.
  • Participation in the Institute for Trade Skills Excellence ‘SkillsOne’ television program and website.
  • Improving excellence in Registered Training Organisations.
  • Working cooperatively with the Australian Government and the Minerals industry under a Memorandum of Understanding to address skills in regional areas.
  • Formation of a Roundtable to establish an entity that will promote agriculture to schools.
  • Establishment of an alliance organisation to promote the education needs of rural students.
  • Involvement with the higher education sector in addressing the decline in tertiary enrolments in agricultural science.
  • Support for the FarmBis program that provides improved access to training programs under the Australian Government’s Advancing Australian Agriculture package.

[ENDS]

Media Enquiries: Brett Heffernan on (02) 6273 3855 or 0408 448 250

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