Senators from across Australia have heard the agriculture sector must better promote opportunities in the industry to students preparing to enter higher education.
In Melbourne for a parliamentary inquiry, The Nationals Senator for Victoria Bridget McKenzie heard from Victorian education providers who said student numbers in agriculture are declining.
“Experts pointed to the current mining adverts and are urging those in the agriculture sector to build a healthier picture of its services,” Senator McKenzie said.
“They said schools can also do more to promote agriculture in broader subjects like maths and science.
“The inquiry heard agriculture is not presented as an option to students, and those with a high ATAR score are advised not to waste their skills on the sector.
“But what potential agriculture students aren’t being told is that the skill level required in the sector is quite high and half the jobs in the industry aren’t on-farm.”
Research by the Australian Council of Deans of Agriculture shows there has been less than 700 graduates annually in agriculture and related courses in recent years, yet 4000 positions a year need to be filled in the sector.
Senator McKenzie heard the ability to fill this quota is becoming increasingly difficult.
“Leading educators reported the industry struggles to find qualified people, with many forced to hire labourers for the sake of getting the job done,” Senator McKenzie said.
“Prime Minister Julia Gillard wants Australia to be a food bowl to Asia, with 1.9 billion more people to feed in the region alone by 2050.
“But last year in north-west Victoria there were over 30 vacancies for agronomists across the region and there were no applicants.”
The inquiry will contribute to the development of agricultural education in Australia, with a report to be handed down on June 8.