2021 YOUNG FARMING CHAMPIONS – INTRODUCING SHANNON CHATFIELD

Outback by accident – that could describe Shannon Chatfield, Picture You in Agriculture’s newest participant in the 2021 Cultivate – Growing Young Leaders program. So exactly how does someone from a hobby farm accidently find themselves on one of the Northern Territory’s largest cattle stations? Let’s meet Shannon and find out.

Shannon grew up on small acreage an hour south of Perth surrounded by horses, which led her to study and work as a veterinary nurse on the completion of high school in 2009, although she wasn’t sure what direction this would take her. She knew she wanted a career in a rural environment so five years later she went travelling and decided to work as a jillaroo in the Northern Territory for a month.

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“I was attracted to Kirkimbie Station [Consolidated Pastoral Company – CPC] because it was a remote cattle breeding property with a small station team,” she says. “It also ran a horse stud to top up camp horses for the rest of the CPC places. This was attractive to me coming from a horse background and was the only thing that felt familiar when moving into a completely foreign environment where I didn’t know anyone on the station, let alone in the industry.”

The fact she was not from a strong agricultural upbringing did not deter Shannon.

“I believe that coming from a different background you don’t take this kind of lifestyle for granted and it’s easy to appreciate how amazing and unique the agricultural industry really is.”

This attitude has taken her from a one month contract to an extraordinary career with northern Australia’s cattle industry. She has worked across various CPC stations, completed a Bachelor of Applied Science, expanded her knowledge of the industry through courses facilitated by CPC and the NTCA (Northern Territory Cattle Association) and now holds the role of Research Project Officer for CPC and Manager’s Assistant alongside her partner Jimmy on Newcastle Waters Station.

“What started out as a month contract on a station out of pure curiosity has turned into a new passion and a career with long-term goals.”

Those long-term goals include leadership in an industry Shannon has come to love. She sees social licence, research and technology and the retention of young people as important issues and would like to see the northern beef industry “lead in sustainability both economically and environmentally.

I want to be a leader people look up to; someone who can confidently promote the industry but also talk about the tough issues challenging agriculture and help the industry take steps to overcome these. I want to be part of the solution encouraging conversations between producers and consumers and help support young people within the industry to be future leaders.”

CPC also hosts Indonesian students  and as a testament to the opportunities open to young people in the industry Shannon had the opportunity to go to Indonesia in 2020 as part of the NTCA Indonesia Australia Pastoral Program (NIAPP).

“It was an amazing experience to be able to see the whole supply chain from station to Indonesian families buying meat at the wet markets”

With these ideals in mind Shannon is looking forward to embarking on her Young Farming Champions journey, sponsored by NTCA, where she hopes to learn from others, develop skills in communication and engagement, and promote the range of career opportunities in agriculture.

“When I first started out as a jillaroo on a station, I had no idea of the possibilities and career paths within the northern beef industry. All I could see at the time was the promotion to a leading hand, head stockman, then eventually to manager. I could have left the industry soon after, thinking there was not a place or career for me. I think we as an industry could be better at offering and promoting alternative career paths to retain people who may not fit within those specific station roles.”

Welcome aboard Shannon. We recognise your passion for the northern beef industry and look forward to learning from you as you learn from us.

#YouthinAg

 

Young Farming Champions Muster March 2021

 

 

Headline Act

The Young Farming Champions program gives our young agriculturists the confidence to lead and the greatest manifestation of this is through the Youth Voices Leadership Team. It therefore gives us great pleasure to introduce the YVLT for 2021. Taking on the position of Chair is Dr Dione Howard.

“I’ve put up my hand to lead the YVLT and continue the legacy of outgoing Chair Emma Ayliffe because I’m excited for what’s in store for this group. Our team worked hard to deliver flexible online workshops and bring 18 episodes of Leadership is Language to our community in 2020. The YVLT will continue this initiative and have some amazing new projects in the pipeline. I am looking forward to supporting the team to bring these to life in 2021.” says Dione

Last year’s YVLT intern Jess Fearnley has stepped up to the position of Secretary and Jo Newton has retained the position of Returning Officer. Other committee members are Marlee Langfield, Meg Rice, Chloe Dutschke, Katherine Bain, Calum Watt, Tayla Field and Sam Wan. The position of Vice Chair is currently vacant and represents an exciting opportunity for another YFC to step into the leadership role. Please contact Dione if you are interested.

In The Field

With 2021 well underway we welcome a new crop of YFC to the program. A big PYiA welcome to our first fishing YFC Bryan Van Wyk from Austral Fisheries. We look forward to learning more about your watery world. And how is this for possibly the best profile pic ever:

Austral Fisheries Bryan Van Wyk in his favourite place

If you know a young person from the Northern Territory who would make an exceptional YFC expressions of interest are now open, courtesy of NT Farmers; and stay tuned as we introduce more new YFC in the coming weeks.

Two of our YFC alumni have started new jobs. After working for the Department of International Trade in London for a year and a half Laura Phelps has taken up a new position as head of the Regulatory, International and Legislative Strategy Unit at Food Standards Agency. It’s great to see one of our YFCs working overseas in international agricultural policy development.

Dr Calum Watt has commenced his working career but he tells it best:

“Finally graduated from uni after almost 10 years and three degrees all culminating in a book I will dread reading again 😂. Now I have dived head first into the world of wheat breeding with national wheat/barley breeding company InterGrain.”

After close to 10 years Calum Watt has graduated from Murdoch University. Pictured here with his supervisor and mentor Prof. Chengdao Li.

Congratulations Laura and Calum.

Many of our YFC have been dealing with the scourge of a mice plaque in NSW and QLD (I am personally thinking of learning Italian so I have different ways of swearing at them) and an increase in grasshoppers, all of which are part of the challenges agriculture presents. But in the last week the blessing of being involved in agriculture has been realised with the coming of the rain over much of eastern Australia. The rains started in the north. “We have had ample rain at home and I would say everything is replenished – even the swamps are full. Up until recently you didn’t have to go far to find people destocking due to water shortages, but this last week might have changed things,” says Hayley Piggot from QLD’s Carnarvon Ranges. Down in NSW the rain got a bit more serious as Naomi Brannan reports: “Moree is flooding so everyone’s cotton etc. is underwater!” Let’s hope all who need it have had a proper drink, and to those affected by damaging floods we wish you a quick recovery.

Out of the Field

As we said at the beginning of this Muster the YFC program gives our young people the confidence to lead and they have certainly been acting upon this in recent weeks. Sam Wan has commenced the Agribusiness Leadership program with the Australian Rural Leadership Foundation (ARLF), while Adele Smith and Tim Eyes participated in the ARLF Trail program for emerging leaders. Adele and Tim first met each other as 2014 Young Farming Champions.

As part of the Trail experience Adele and Tim heard from the current CEO Han Worsely and former CEO Hannah Wandel of Country to Canberra

Jo Newton was been selected for the ADC Australian Leadership Retreat held from March 18-21, and Tim Eyes, who is on the BBM Youth Support board, was part of a reference group for the BBM partnership with UN Youth Australia; providing support leadership to those in the vocational education training (VET) system.

Anika Molesworth is as visible as ever in the leadership space. This month she has popped up on Visibility Co and has been announced as a champion for the Country to Canberra program, alongside Elizabeth (Liz) Brennan and Natalie (Nat) Sommerville.

Anika also joined fellow YFC Emma Ayliffe, Bronwyn Roberts and Jasmine Green in a four-page spread in Woman’s Day titled “Real Life – Incredible Aussie Women – Ladies of the Land” (which also featured north QLD grazier Kate Andison). These ladies are superstars!

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Not to be upstaged Dione Howard appeared on the cover of The Land!

 

Prime Cuts

Former YVLT Chair Emma Ayliffe has been in the spotlight with an op ed piece on the future of agricultural careers, first published with Grain Central. This has kicked off our highly successful “Crafting Careers in Agriculture” series featuring some of agriculture’s brightest minds including Corteva’s Rob Kaan, dairy consultant Dr Neil Moss, AWI’s Craig French, NFF CEO Tony Mahar, SCU’s Prof Jim Prately, Austral Fisheries’ Lesley Leyland and innovative agriculture teacher Scott Graham.

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Lifetime Achievements

After reporting last month that Naomi Brannan and husband Sean were expecting we are pleased to announce that, after a dramatic birth, Imogen Rose Brannan has been welcomed into the world. “She was born in Moree via emergency c-section seven weeks early,” Naomi says. “We were in intensive care in Sydney for a week but now she’s breathing on her own but still being fed by a tube because she’s very little still. Hopefully we will be out of Royal North Shore hospital in 3-4 weeks.” We hope so too and send you our best wishes to all your family, Naomi.

Imogen Rose Brannan

mega shout out to our journalist Mandy McKeesick who collates our Muster every month

Crafting Careers in Agriculture with Lesley Leyland who shares how Austral Fisheries is well ahead of the curve when it comes to attracting, developing and retaining the best people

Continuing our Crafting Careers in Agriculture series, today we welcome the fishing industry to the Picture You in Agriculture (PYiA) fold and look at how Austral Fisheries is well ahead of the curve when it comes to attracting, developing and retaining the best people.

Lesley Leyland, head of Quality Safety and People at Austral Fisheries, believes changing the perception of agriculture and fisheries begins in the classroom. With primary school students identifying Global Goal “life below the ocean” as a topic of high importance, the time is ripe for change.

“If I was sitting with a group of 12-year-olds now, I’d tell them we have a Plastics Champion at Austral,” she says. “Plastic in the ocean needs addressing and we are doing this. Fishing, today, is all about sustainable practises working to meet Global Goal 14: Life below the Water.  We are here to make a difference and to look after the planet. Passion will drive these young people and, in turn, drive our business. I look forward to sitting back and watching them grow.”

Lesley Leyland describes herself as Chief of Staff for Austral Fisheries, as she oversees human resources, Quality, Safety and People for fleets working from the deep seas of the sub-Antarctic to Australia’s northern reaches. With a background in freight forwarding Lesley joined Austral 22 years ago as their export coordinator. CEO David Carter joined the company as a deckhand 43 years ago. Both are testament to a workforce culture that supports its people and is rewarded with loyalty. So how does this process begin?

“We’re always looking for people with talent, passion and attitude,” Lesley says. “We can teach a lot of things with on-the-job training and we like to upskill our people, but you can’t teach passion and talent. When we see talent, we will invest in it.”

This investment includes PYiA’s first fisheries participant, Bryan Van Wyk who will join the Young Farming Champions program this year and bring a new voice to the team.

“We all fall into the agricultural space but there is not enough spotlight on fishers,” Lesley says. “It’s not just about fishing anymore. We’re about plastics in the ocean, we’re about environment and making sure we have a sustainable product for market. It is important for our business to have a voice and Bryan is a young man who is passionate about the marine environment.”

Upskilling and retaining staff is another critical aspect of the Austral workforce. With an aging executive committee (average age 55) Lesley oversaw the introduction of a leadership development program for middle management.

“There is a lot of diversity in our business with a huge amount of expertise and experience, and so we developed this in-house program as a strategy going forward. We noticed a real lift in middle management and a heightened sense of worth and responsibility.”

Lesley believes changing the perception of agriculture and fisheries begins in the classroom and, with primary school students identifying life below the ocean as a topic of high importance, the time is ripe for change.

“If I was sitting with a group of 12-year-olds now, I’d tell them we have a Plastics Champion at Austral,” she says. “Plastic in the ocean needs addressing and we are doing this. Fishing, today, is all about sustainable practises working to meet SDG:14 Life below the Water.  We are here to make a difference and to look after the planet. Passion will drive these young people and, in turn, drive our business. I look forward to sitting back and watching them grow.”

Young Australians like Bryan Van Wyk are excited about the opportunity to have careers that ensure we have sustainable oceans

 

Crafting Careers in Agriculture – Emeritus Prof. Jim Pratley AM reminds us we haven’t ploughed a field since he was a boy

Continuing our Crafting Careers in Agriculture series in this blog post we reach out to our thought leaders in the education sector

“Agriculture is not all about milking a cow, or ploughing a field. We haven’t ploughed a field for the last 30 or 40 years. It’s all conservation agriculture now. The issue, I guess, has been that as a sector we have not promoted what it is that we’re doing, yet our record of conservation, sustainability and increasingly a focus on emissions reduction, are all good news stories. We’ve done more than most other sectors and so we need to get that message out and to let people know that we’re a sophisticated, highly professional sector.” Emeritus Professor Jim Pratley AM

Jim Pratley AM is Emeritus Professor, Agriculture at Charles Sturt University and has dedicated his life to agriculture. PYiA is honoured to call him a friend and a long-time supporter of our work. Our Crafting Careers in Agriculture series would not be complete without Jim’s input and here we chat to him about riding the new agricultural wave.

A recent report from the ABC highlighted the increased number of enrolments in agriculture at Australian universities, headlining COVID-19 and the lower fee structure as driving factors.

Jim believes this is only part of the story.

“We think COVID has played a part by stopping the gap year and so young people have had some of their options closed and are coming to university, but conventional wisdom is the fee structure is not a major driver as kids don’t think about financial obligations that don’t start for three or four years. I think it (increased enrolment) is really a continuation of a trend that’s happened since about 2012, when we were at our low point. Since then agriculture’s image has improved dramatically and industries have worked hard at creating career paths. Salaries for people who have degrees are probably in the top 10 of starting salaries for graduates. So supply and demand has worked really well in agriculture.”

Data collection by Rimfire Resources shows the number of advertised jobs in agriculture has been rising in the last five years, with a steady increase in managerial positions. A managerial position incorporates high technology and high business skills, meaning the image of agriculture as – in Jim’s words – “cow and plough” is receding.

“It’s not all about milking a cow, or ploughing a field. We haven’t ploughed a field for the last 30 or 40 years. It’s all conservation agriculture now. The issue, I guess, has been that as a sector we have not promoted what it is that we’re doing, yet our record of conservation, sustainability and increasingly a focus on emissions reduction, are all good news stories. We’ve done more than most other sectors and so we need to get that message out and to let people know that we’re a sophisticated, highly professional sector.”

Getting the good agricultural message out there often starts in schools such as when Young Farming Champions engage with the next generation through The Archibull Prize and Kreative Koalas. And this is not possible without the support and enthusiasm of agriculture teachers in these schools. To this end Jim works with national bodies representing these teachers.

“Agriculture in schools has had an issue in terms of its status. Years ago schools would allocate kids to agriculture who didn’t want to do anything else and the good kids would tend to say, ‘Oh, well I’m not going to do that’ and the ag teachers probably felt the same way.” As a result there is currently a shortage in agriculture teachers but change may to be on the horizon as the image of agriculture in general morphs to one of a highly professional and scientific sector. “I was at a Zoom meeting last night with the National Association of Ag Teachers, and they were commenting that they get inquiries from other teachers about transferring to agriculture because of the sense that it’s about to boom.”

“I think what we’re seeing is the fruit of a lot of people’s labour including Lynne Strong (PYiA) and Fiona Simson at National Farmers Federation and industry bodies who now have education and leadership in their strategic plans. We’ve had enormous change in the rhetoric coming out of the key organisations and industry bodies and what we’ve seen is a real professionalisation of agriculture. I think that we’re on a wave at the moment and we want to make sure that we ride it all away.”

And how did Jim find his way into a career in agriculture?

Jim grew up on a prime lamb property near Bathurst, NSW with the intention to return to the farm on the completion of his university education. “Circumstances changed and my parents sold the farm in my final year and so I needed to change direction. I was offered a scholarship to undertake a PhD and was successful in attaining an academic position at Wagga Wagga where I have been ever since.”

Read Jim’s book Australian Agriculture 2020 Conservation Farming to Automation

Connect with Jim on LinkedIn

Expressions of Interest are open for Northern Territory Young Farming Champions

Are you an early career professional with a passion to lead and advocate for farming in the Northern Territory?

Do you want to become a confident communicator and trusted voice in the agriculture sector?

If so then Picture You in Agriculture (PYiA), in conjunction with NT Farmers, is seeking applications to join the prestigious Cultivate – Growing Young Leaders program. Graduates of this program become Young Farming Champions – a network of globally connected young thought-leaders thriving in business and in life, who are inspiring community pride in Australian agriculture.

Young people aged between 18 and 35, who are studying or who have completed tertiary education, are invited to apply for the Cultivate – Growing Young Leaders program. Successful applicants will receive an incredible two-year package of support including media training, networking and mentorship opportunities to help them share their stories with the nation.

2021 represents the first year of collaboration between PYiA and NT Farmers.

“NT Farmers want to encourage emerging leaders to promote the diverse farming industry, from cropping to horticulture, and lead the industry into the future,” NT Farmers Education Development Officer Anna Day said.  “NT Farmers chose the Young Farming Champions program as part of a range of initiatives to promote agriculture to future generations as well as highlight some of the fantastic work being done by young people in NT agriculture.  NT Farmers are investing in educating and engaging young people to develop and enhance a vital industry with fantastic future opportunities. The Young Farming Champions program is a great opportunity for young NT farmers to receive coaching and mentoring as well as networking opportunities and intergenerational expertise.” 

Alumni of this prestigious program include climate change thought-leader Anika Molesworth, winner of the Leadership category of the 2018 Victorian Young Achiever Awards Dr Jo Newton OAM and 2019 wool-broker of the year Samantha Wan.

Download the EOI brochure here

Submit your EOI here

For more information contact Picture You in Agriculture National Director Lynne Strong at lynnestrong@pyia.com.au

Crafting Careers in Agriculture with Scott Graham from Barker College

Continuing our Crafting Careers in Agriculture series in this blog post we reach out to our thought leaders in the education sector

High school students from urban areas may think they have little connection to agriculture, but Scott Graham, Head of Agriculture at Barker College in Sydney, is not only challenging that belief but spearheading a revolution in the way the subject is taught, leading to a greater uptake of ag-related courses at university.

In January 2021 the Sydney Morning Herald analysed the 2020 HSC results and identified Barker College as an emerging centre for agriculture. Much of this emergence is credited to Scott who commenced work at Barker College in 2010 when 120 students studied agriculture in Years 9 to 12. This year Scott, and his team of five teachers, will oversee 365 students, 95 of whom will sit agriculture in the HSC.

Growing up in Sydney Scott is not from an agricultural background but was introduced to the subject at high school, where it was compulsory in Years 7 and 8.

“I may not have chosen agriculture otherwise [if it wasn’t compulsory] but I really enjoyed it and when it was voluntary from Year 9 onwards I continued and did it for the HSC in Year 12,” he says.

Scott Graham – Head of Agriculture at Barker College

With an interest in science and biology Scott chose to study agricultural science at Sydney University and in 2010 joined Barker, even though enrolment numbers meant he was only teaching three classes of agriculture, compared to a teacher’s full load of five classes. But agriculture at Barker was changing.

“We’ve positioned agriculture as a science in the same way as chemistry or biology, and by making it more academic have attracted the more academically talented students. We also try to make it relevant to their lives. Even if they are not going into agriculture [as a career] they are still going to consume food every day and need to know about it as much as anyone else. There is plenty of talk about how urban people are disconnected from the food supply chain and as interest from kids and their parents grows we need to promote agriculture in the right way. But, actually getting students interested is easy. One of our main issues is getting agricultural teachers as there is a severe shortage across Australia,” Scott says.

Most schools teaching agriculture will have a led-steer and show program but not at Barker College.

“I think this is an old image of agriculture and probably the completely wrong way around. I think if we started showing animals our numbers would drop because our image would change. Agriculture is not necessarily about being a farmer; only 18% of jobs in agriculture are on-farm,” he says.

Scott is researching this new way of teaching with a PhD through Charles Sturt University, looking at how to increase enrolments in agriculture at secondary schools and consequently increase agriculture enrolments at university. He believes the key is high school.

“You’re never going to fill jobs and positions at university if students don’t study agriculture at school and we need to capitalise on this with our students from Year 9 onwards.”

This changing approach to teaching agriculture is reaping rewards. Of the 1300 students sitting agriculture in the HSC across NSW in 2021, Barker College has 95 or over 7% of the total in one school. Of these Scott estimates 30% will go on to study an agriculture-related degree at university and become part of the 82% of people who work off-farm in the food and fibre supply chain.

Crafting a career in agriculture has never looked so good.

And how did Scott find his way into agriculture?

Scott grew up in Sydney with no exposure to agriculture until it was a compulsory subject in Years 7 and 8 of high school.

“I may not have chosen agriculture otherwise, but I really enjoyed it and when it was voluntary from Year 9 onwards, I continued and did it for the HSC in Year 12.”

With an interest in science and biology Scott chose to study agricultural science at Sydney University and in 2010 joined Barker College where he is now Head Teacher of Agriculture.

Visit Barker College Agriculture YouTube channel here

Connect with Scott on LinkedIn

Scott interviews three of his past students who studied food and agribusiness at Sydney University and who are now working in varied agricultural-related fields in urban environments. Watch the video here.

2021 Young Farming Champions – Introducing Bryan Van Wyk

Picture You in Agriculture is thrilled to welcome the fishing industry into our fold and our very first fishing YFC Bryan Van Wyk. Bryan is a shining example of one who is living his best life, working in a career he loves.

Let’s meet him.

Bryan can currently be found in Cairns or on the ocean in his role managing prawn trawlers for Austral Fisheries, but his story begins on the northern coast of Tasmania in Burnie where rock pools inspired a life-long appreciation for the marine environment.

“None of my family fished or had strong connections with the ocean but as a child I was fascinated with rock pools and would spend hours discovering all the different sea animals that lived in them. As I grew older, I found myself spending all my free time either fishing, spearfishing, or diving. The ocean was my happy place and I wanted to find ways to spend more time on the water and expand my knowledge of all creatures living beneath the surface,” he says.

Bryan’s happy place

Bryan attended Burnie High School and Hellyer College (also in Burnie).

“I remember a critical moment at school where all students were asked to think about what they wanted to do when they grew up. At the time I was not exactly sure what to pick but I remember being told that if you love what you do, you never have to work a day in your life. I knew that I loved the ocean, so I began a journey towards studying marine science and tailored my schooling towards that goal.”

Post school Bryan continued to work towards his goal, completing a Bachelor of Applied Science (Marine Environment) with first class honours at the Australian Maritime College in Launceston. Following a similar career path to Austral Fisheries CEO David Carter, Bryan was offered a job with Austral in his final year and in 2015 relocated to Cairns.

“It is rare for a graduate fresh out of university and with no experience to be offered a job with such a reputable company so I jumped at the opportunity.”

Bryan is now living the life he loves in Australia’s northern climes, as head of operations for Austral’s northern prawn fishing fleet. In this varied job he manages 11 trawlers, which involves monitoring the catch, product logistics, packaging distribution, equipment and ship maintenance, vessel surveys and liaison with industry bodies. He is also involved with bycatch reduction, product quality improvement and new innovations.

But beyond the job Bryan has high aspirations for fishing and the marine world he so cherishes.

“I would like to become a respected influencer and leader with a positive impact for the industry I work in. I believe that one day I will be leading my organisation in the Northern Prawn Fishery and hope to maintain a profitable operation while staying true to important values such as environmental sustainability and crew wellbeing. I would also like to empower others around me to think about the bigger picture and work collectively to tackle common threats such as climate change, pollution, bycatch and water development.”

With these goals in mind Bryan and Austral have turned to the Young Farming Champions program.

“I hope to learn from other people and their experiences in different industries. I want to compare issues and stories and discover strategies taken to overcome problems. I am keen to grow my personal development and network with like-minded people along the way and to sharpen my public speaking and communication skills.”

Welcome Bryan. We look forward to working with you on your YFC journey and beyond.

We also look forward to sampling some of these fabulous Austral products

 

Tony Mahar says finding hooks, promoting the diversity of careers, creating pathways and connecting people through networks are potential keys to unlocking the future of the agricultural workforce.

“I see an opportunity to create a greater understanding of the breadth of traditional jobs that can be tailored for the agricultural space. Things like nutrition, finance, international trade, code writers, data technology – all of these have opportunities in agriculture. So we’ve got to make sure that when people are coming through school they see the jobs that are on offer and say ‘Oh gee I would like to do that,’ or ‘I’m interested in technology and I can apply it to agriculture’. Once we get people into the industry, connecting them with others, building their networks and showing them the pathways are important steps in retaining them.”

As CEO of the National Farmers Federation Tony Mahar is on the frontline when it comes to advocating for constructive policy around agricultural careers and with the recent release of the National Agriculture Workforce Strategy it is a fitting time to invite him to contribute to our Crafting Careers in Agriculture series.

Tony Mahar CEO of National Farmers Federation

“Agriculture has evolved and our job roles are changing continually. These days you don’t have to be toiling in a paddock to work in agriculture, and as an industry we’ve got to get better at promoting those different careers,” Tony says, although he admits there is no silver bullet solution and it will be a big task involving schools, industry employers, government and stakeholders.

One of the National Agriculture Workforce Strategy recommendations was the introduction of an apprenticeship-type scheme for farm workers. Tony supports this:

“Vocational education, apprenticeships and traineeships have to be an entry point that we really focus on. There are a whole range of opportunities but we’ve got to have it structured around the skills and qualifications that agriculture needs and those needs may include science, economics and environmental aspects.”

Seeing agriculture with a defined career pathway is another challenge Tony sees facing the sector, something that will come with a greater understanding of the breadth of traditional jobs that can be tailored for the agricultural space.

“Things like nutrition, finance, international trade, code writers, data technology – all of these have opportunities in agriculture. So we’ve got to make sure that when people are coming through school they see the jobs that are on offer and say ‘Oh gee I would like to do that,’ or ‘I’m interested in technology and I can apply it to agriculture’. Once we get people into the industry, connecting them with others, building their networks and showing them the pathways are important steps in retaining them.”

Starting with students in primary school and connecting to not only their concerns but the concerns of their parents and family is a critical step to promoting agriculture, particularly in a time when the broader community is taking more interest in where their food and fibre comes from.

Yet sometimes the hook can be sitting in plain sight:

“I was lucky enough to be in a header in Moree a couple of weeks ago, and this is cutting edge technology. It was like being in a flight simulator. You’re controlling this million dollar machine with a joystick and screens and you could be playing in an actual video game. I couldn’t see a kid not getting excited and that makes this a very relatable bit of technology.”

Finding hooks, promoting the diversity of careers, creating pathways and connecting people through networks are potential keys to unlocking the future of the agricultural workforce.

Craig French says there are smart young shearers putting money away and buying houses and investing and buying property.

“There is big demand for agricultural workers on farms and a lot more opportunity for contract work – mustering, lamb marking etc. That means you’ve got a business and can build your own empire. There are smart young shearers putting money away and buying houses and investing and buying property, and post COVID there will not only be work all over Australia but work all over the world. And not all jobs are on farm or in the bush. AWI’s head office overlooks Sydney Harbour so you can live in a capital city and still be involved with the fibre.” Craig French AWI national manager of wool harvesting training and development.

Shearers and Young Farming Champions Tom Squires and Matt Cumming

In this third instalment of our Crafting Careers in Agriculture series we speak with Craig French, AWI’s national manager of wool harvesting training and development, who believes contracting and the renewal of wool processing in Australia offer opportunities for future careers in agriculture.

Craig French is a prime example of where a career in wool can take you. Born and bred in the northern suburbs of Sydney he had a longing for life on the land. Following his heart he travelled to Longreach Pastoral College after school to complete a wool classing qualification.

“I didn’t have a property to go back to so I started my wool career in the wool store in Sydney, then went jackarooing for three years, and then moved to Dubbo as a wool representative. I bought a farm here 18 years ago.”

Now running his own property while working remotely for AWI Craig believes wool harvesting is the perfect entry to a career in wool.

“I think we need to be targeting the Years 8 and 9 kids and giving them an introduction to wool harvesting – shearing, wool handling, wool classing, wool buyers and brokers. There are so many opportunities in the wool sector. I think COVID has made us look at what we do and how we do it and I believe Australia will have more early and middle stage processing [of wool] in the future and that will bring more jobs for people. But the initial attraction is shearing and wool handling.”

Formal qualifications are not required to become a shearer, which opens the job to anyone with a strong work ethic.

Craig French (far right) says a career in wool harvesting can take you everywhere

“You may not need qualifications [except for a wool classer, which requires a Certificate 4] but you need skills and AWI encourages these through events such as the annual National Merino Challenge and the School Wether Challenge, which engages with up to 50 schools at a time. One change we’ve seen is we have a lot more girls becoming shearers.”

With good money to be made Craig sees many opportunities for young people to craft their own career.

“There is big demand for agricultural workers on farms and a lot more opportunity for contract work – mustering, lamb marking etc. That means you’ve got a business and can build your own empire. There are smart young shearers putting money away and buying houses and investing and buying property, and post COVID there will not only be work all over Australia but work all over the world. And not all jobs are on farm or in the bush. AWI’s head office overlooks Sydney Harbour so you can live in a capital city and still be involved with the fibre.”

It comes as no surprise that when Craig is asked to nominate a career in wool he enthuses about shearing.

“A decent shearer shearing 150 sheep per day is earning roughly $2000 on a four-day week. It’s pretty good returns – that’s $100,000 a year. It may take 12-18 months to develop the skills to earn that money, however it’s not a bad apprenticeship.”

But don’t just take Craig’s word for it; here is what our Young Farming Champion Tom Squires has to say about his career in wool:

“Learning the craft of shearing at a young age has allowed me to complete a university degree, travel to seven countries around the world, buy my own sheep and to purchase a house. You’ll meet some of the best people in the sheds and have a great time along the way. Regardless of how long you spend in the industry, it’s a time in your life you will never forget.”

#CraftingCareers #CareersinWool #YouthinAg

 

Dr Neil Moss says attracting and retaining people in agriculture starts with being employers of choice

“Dairy business owners need to identify what it takes to become an employer of choice. There needs to be an increased realisation that they are competing not only against dairy but other sectors such as mining or even other more urban based sectors. Some of the shortcomings of the dairy workplace need to be acknowledged, worked around and perhaps modified or compensated for. Improved employer training as well as workplace training for employees is crucial to the success of the industry as it evolves and increasingly needs to look to those who are less familiar with agriculture to join its forces.”

Dr Neil Moss is a director of Scibus and a long-time consultant to the dairy industry. In this second instalment of our Crafting Careers in Agriculture series he shares with us his views on the role of industry in attracting the future workforce.

Australia’s food and fibre sector is in a highly competitive workplace for staff and Neil believes there is a role for industry to swing the competition in the favour of agriculture.

“To compete in this marketplace you need to offer jobs that are financially attractive, have potential for progression, and are interesting; certainly not jobs that are “the bottom of dung pile” to only be considered by those that can’t be employed elsewhere. A dairying career is actually very complex and requires planning and attention to detail. It is a technically challenging job that brings a wonderful balance of working with people, animals, technology and the environment.”

There is a general trend for dairy enterprises to become larger in the future and with this increase in size comes the potential for new jobs, such as a herd manager or fodder production specialists. These jobs may be very suitable and attractive for those who may have both practical skills and tertiary qualifications to support the high levels of animal husbandry, data analysis, reporting and nutrition skills required. However, employment of people in what was dominantly a family-run operation sees new challenges.

“Many successful farms have evolved with family labour and not a lot of off-farm or employed labour. As a result the people who move from sole operators to employers haven’t always been trained, or had the opportunity, to develop the skills and understanding of what being an employer in a modern agricultural enterprise really is. There is a real need for this to be addressed. Dairy business owners need to identify what it takes to become an employer of choice. There needs to be an increased realisation that they are competing not only against dairy but other sectors such as mining or even other more urban based sectors. Some of the shortcomings of the dairy workplace need to be acknowledged, worked around and perhaps modified or compensated for. Improved employer training as well as workplace training for employees is crucial to the success of the industry as it evolves and increasingly needs to look to those who are less familiar with agriculture to join its forces.”

Alongside employer education Neil believes there is a role for industry research groups to conduct workplace forecasting as precision agriculture and measuring and monitoring become more important to the business of dairy.

When asked to nominate a future job within the dairy industry Neil returns to the herd manager as an example.

“The salary can be anywhere between $60-150,000 per annum depending on scale and complexity of enterprise, and may include other benefits such as accommodation. It’s a complicated interesting career with potential for competitive financial rewards, career progression, training within the business and opportunities for international and domestic travel. The potential for taking equity or moving into your own enterprise may be opened up as well. Within the right businesses these can be fantastic career opportunities that should be on the radar of anyone interested in agriculture.”

and how did Neil find his way into a career in agriculture?

Neil was born in Sydney and when he was ten years old his parents brought the general store at Dalgety in southern NSW, and not long after a 350-acre property where they ran cows and calves. Neil’s high school holidays were spent working on local farms, which, in part, fired his determination to study veterinary science at university, which included a PhD in dairy cattle reproduction. Neil has a Diploma of Human Resource Management from NCDEA. He is currently a director of Scibus and is their senior consultant to the dairy and beef industries

Connect with Neil on LinkedIn