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Industry Roundtable tackles agricultural labour shortage

31 January 2012

With some 100,000 jobs currently available in agriculture, the National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) will this week convene an Industry Roundtable on the issues of education, skills and labour shortages.

NFF President Jock Laurie says the Roundtable, which will see 50 industry, government and education representatives come together in Canberra on Friday, aims to find practical solutions to issues that have long plagued the agricultural industry.

“If agriculture is going to have a long and sustainable future, then we need to be investing in our most important resource – people,” Mr Laurie said.

“There are many challenges facing our human resources: our labour force is ageing, there are fewer young people entering our industry, and drought and other competing industries have had a significant impact on the amount of labour available.

“The agricultural industry offers enormous career diversity. Career opportunities include farmers and farm managers, animal nutritionists, plant breeders and soil scientists, agronomists, natural resource managers, quarantine officers, journalists, policy advisers – the list is endless.

“And there’s a surplus of jobs available. Recent statistics show that 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.

“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, but also to help build understanding of where food and fibre comes from.

“Ensuring greater awareness of agriculture is critical, and is a bigger task than one single organisation can undertake. The Roundtable aims to bring together key leaders in the labour, education and training arena to map out solutions that industry and Government can jointly enact,” Mr Laurie said.

The NFF Industry Roundtable comes as the Senate Inquiry into higher education and skills training in agriculture conducts a public hearing in Canberra this week to discuss the many issues regarding education, training, skills and labour facing the industry. The NFF will present to the inquiry this Wednesday, ahead of the Roundtable on Friday.

The Government has also announced reviews of Australia’s employment laws, the Fair Work Act and the Modern Award, both of which significantly impact the farming sector.

The Industry Roundtable is supported by PrimeSuper and will take place on Friday 3 February at the Brassey Hotel in Barton. Key speakers include Justice Geoffrey Giudice, President of Fair Work Australia, and the Hon. Sid Sidebottom MP, Parliamentary Secretary for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry.

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