Our comments and suggestions in relation to the three consultation questions posed by the consultation papers are outlined below:
Question 1: What are the critical workforce related issues for the industry to address?
• Access to current and future training information and opportunities.
This issue was identified as part of the Rural Futures Report in relation to young people, however, it is equally important for women in their 20’s and 30’s wanting to re-enter the workforce once their children reach school age. There is a strong need to support and link people outside the education system with training providers. From our experience the preferred mode of further training is specific training courses followed by Apprenticeships and Workplace Training. Young women re-entering the workforce, in particular expressed a desire to “gain that piece of paper” to add to their cv.
• Agriculture has a poor image in relation to providing long term sustainable careers.
The Rural Futures Report indicated that young people were “caught in a cultural sterotype where jobs in agriculture are believed to be ‘dead end’, ‘hard work’, ‘not well paid’ and ‘lead nowhere’.” We believe this could be turned around through promotion of agriculture in a similar vein to the current Defence Force advertising. We need to promote working in the agricultural sector as providing ongoing life skills, a wide variety of opportunities and integrated career paths.
Question 2: What are the most critical skills we’ll need to develop within the industry to ensure we achieve a profitable, sustainable and growing industry for the future?
The Tasmanian Agri-business Skills Pipeline Program identified “employability skills” as one of 5 key themes in their Background Paper. We believe this is a critical area that needs to be addressed. Agriculture in Tasmania is changing therefore the skills required by the industry from its workforce are also changing. We have identified 2 key skill areas we believe need resourcing immediately:
• Training in tasks involved in irrigated crop production (including perennial crops). As more farming areas in Tasmania gain access to irrigation there will be an expansion in a wide range of cropping activities. It is essential that farming businesses entering this area have an appropriately skilled labour force to draw upon. This needs to start from the ground up. For example; school agriculture classes in the Midlands have historically focused on teaching livestock husbandry skills. But with the development of irrigated agriculture in this area, skills that are going to be required include chemical handling, pump and irrigator operation, knowledge of minimum tillage techniques, GPS guidance technology etc.
• Farm business management skills. As farming businesses grow ever larger and more diverse, farm business management skills become increasingly important. Now, more than ever, farmers need to either equip themselves with these skills or have access to experienced and qualified providers. Managing a large operation means that business decisions often involve substantial amounts of cash. Farmers need to be able to effectively assess the potential financial outcomes of their decisions as well as manage their overall business performance to ensure they are working as efficiently and productively as possible.
Question 3: What actions are most critical for the industry to undertake?
We feel there needs to be a co-ordination between Careers Officers at High Schools, training providers at the Polytechnics and industry bodies such as the TFGA, TWiA and TAPG to identify training needs and present these opportunities to people interested in pursuing a career in agriculture.
We would particularly like to see more one-on-one training in the workplace, similar to the work Sharni Radford has been doing with individual students enrolled in the Diploma of Agriculture course at the Polytechnic.
We would like to see agriculture promoted as a dynamic and diverse industry in which careers can be forged; an industry that really does cater for most interests from diesel mechanics to farm managers, surveyors to accountants, consultants to business managers.
For further information in regard to this submission please contact Ruth Hall, TWiA Executive Member.