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Agriculture needs to do more to attract and educate young people

MEDIA RELEASE


Thursday 27 June 2024

 

As Australia’s agriculture industry continues to struggle with labour shortages, universities in other countries better prepare their students to work in agriculture.


That’s the finding contained in Kathryn Fleay’s Nuffield Scholarship report, released today.


Kathryn, an agronomy and operations manager from Western Australia’s wheatbelt, researched how Australia could shore up its agricultural workforce, particularly through university degrees with strong ties to the industry.



Supported by CSBP Fertilisers, Kathryn travelled to the United States of America, Canada, Ireland, the United Kingdom, France and the Netherlands, to explore how Australia could better foster agricultural futures by empowering young people from non-agricultural backgrounds to pursue careers in the industry.


“Young people will play a pivotal role in driving innovation, sustainability, food security, and addressing the changing dynamics of the agricultural workforce,” Kathryn said.


“That’s why it’s so important that we nurture their participation and experiences in agriculture.”


Kathryn found that agriculture and agrifood degrees in the countries she visited better prepared students to work in the rapidly changing industries.


Kathryn with Simon Parker, Newcastle University UK.


“Driven by advancements in technology and the increasing pressures of environmental and societal demands, professionals in these sectors require new skills to adapt and thrive,” she said.


On the other hand, Kathryn reports that the number of agricultural university graduates in Australia has stagnated, while job opportunities in the sector continue to outpace graduate supply.


“Attracting and retaining skilled individuals in agriculture must be a top priority.”


She says industry should work with higher education institutions to provide opportunities for students to gain real world experiences through work placements, internships and graduate programs.


Kathryn with Farming Smarter staff in Lethbridge, Alberta


“These experiences lead to increased confidence, maturity, and problem-solving skills,” Kathryn said.


Her report emphasises the need to champion diversity, welcoming young people from diverse backgrounds into the agricultural sector to inject fresh perspectives and ideas.


“I saw some great examples overseas of programs and individual efforts to dispel misconceptions and stereotypes surrounding careers in agriculture. Collaborative efforts involving educational institutions, industry stakeholders, consumers and students are instrumental in creating environments that foster the success of young people in agriculture,” she said.


She learned about internships where young professionals gain work in roles they may not have once considered, which are helping to bring people with passions as diverse as information technology and biology into the agricultural workforce.


“Being exposed to these opportunities while still studying is allowing a diverse pool of graduates into agricultural roles. This was evident in many universities and colleges throughout Canada, US, Europe and the UK. "


CSBP Fertilisers General Manager Ryan Lamp said CSBP had a proud history of supporting Nuffield Australia and scholars for many years.


“We value working with emerging agricultural leaders and organisations such as Nuffield Australia that understand the significance of driving positive change across agriculture and in regional communities,” Mr Lamp said.


“Since receiving the CSBP Nuffield Australia scholarship in 2021, Kathryn has embarked on an extensive research journey, and we hope that the findings in her report have a role to play in shaping the future of WA agriculture for the better.”


For more on Kathryn’s research findings, see her presentation from last year’s Nuffield National Conference here.


Other Nuffield scholars will present their research findings at the 2024 National Conference in Launceston, Tasmania from 2-4 September. To find out more and register to attend, visit https://www.nuffield.com.au/conference-2024





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