The Nationals Senator for Victoria Bridget McKenzie yesterday spoke in the Senate to the release of the report into Higher Education and Skills Training to Support Agriculture and Agribusiness in Australia.
The inquiry into the future of Australia’s agriculture sector was held over seven months by the Education, Employment and Workplace Relations References Committee, of which Senator McKenzie is a member.
“The inquiry heard agriculture is a thriving, multibillion-dollar industry filled with exciting career options, high tech research and world-class practice,” Senator McKenzie said.
“But the sector is being challenged by a skills shortage, as evidenced by a range of stakeholders including students, education providers and industry representatives.
“Agriculture is a key export earner for the Australian economy, in 2009-10 the gross value of agriculture, forestry and fisheries was $43.6 billion or three per cent of Gross Domestic Product.
“Despite a strong economic forecast, last year there were 30 agronomist vacancies across north-west Victoria and zero applicants.”
Senator McKenzie said the report made a range of recommendations for government to consider.
These included setting up a new peak industry body and highlighting the need for more collaboration between industry and education stakeholders.
“There needs to be a greater focus around raising the profile of agriculture in schools, so it’s considered a possible career option when students decide what they might one day want to do,” Senator McKenzie said.
“The committee would also like to see adequate funding set aside for the agricultural and agribusiness sector, so there are more effective training outcomes for employers and employees.”
Senator McKenzie said the government needed to respond to the report.
“The Gillard Government wants Australia to serve as a food bowl to Asia, but this won’t be possible until the agricultural sector is properly staffed by passionate, knowledgeable and practically-trained graduates.
“The message is not getting through to Gen Y, or the government, that a career in agriculture can make a different and make you a dollar.
“The government must act quickly to address this crisis of confidence in regional Australia.”