Crafting Careers in Agriculture – Professor Ian Lean shares the cutting edge vision for Hurlstone Agricultural High School

Picture You in Agriculture has a long history of working with Hurlstone Agricultural High School and their extraordinary art department with the school winning The Archibull Prize three times. We are mega excited that the new farm model designed for the school by Professor Ian Lean will see students immerse themselves in agriculture of the future where we get the best outcomes for farmers, consumers and the planet

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When it comes to the agricultural workforce of the future the role of the high school can never be underestimated and facilities at Hurlstone Agricultural High School (HAHS) are currently being upgraded “to continue its legacy and contribution to agricultural education”.

Student outcomes and learning have been at the centre of decision making. The proposed farm upgrades will create fit for purpose facilities to support the next generation of students learning about contemporary agriculture and STEAM ( science, technology, engineering, art and maths)
To achieve improved agricultural education outcomes, the farm will be upgraded with co-located technology in a centralised farm hub and and the boarding facilities will be upgraded.

The proposed upgrades to the farm and boarding facilities will provide students with:
■ improved educational outcomes in agriculture and STEAM
■ new and upgraded boarding facilities with additional capacity for up to 180 boarders
■ new fit for purpose, modern farm and dairy facilities offering expanded education experiences
■ ease of farm operations and management
■ more opportunities for students to view and interact with livestock
■ collaboration opportunities with the new Centre of Excellence in Agricultural Education, universities and
industry

Source 

In this edition of our Crafting Careers series we talk with Professor Ian Lean, managing director of Scibus, who is the industry consultant working with the school to upgrade their farm.

In the December 2020 HAHS newsletter the school outlined the proposed farm upgrade:

“Hurlstone will benefit from cutting edge agricultural technology in the proposed farm upgrade. A farm hub will be at the core of the upgrade and will co-locate farming enterprises, technology, machinery and housing for livestock. It will also provide improved linkages to learning and boarding spaces. The new central farm hub means students will have access to modern technology, more viewing and animal interaction opportunities, co-located learning space, and greater collaboration opportunities with teaching staff, industry and university partnerships.”

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It sounds like a major undertaking but for Ian the driving factors are reasonably simple.

“We are marrying the concepts of compassion for animals with the science and data of modern agriculture,” he says.

In order to achieve this Ian and the development team must overhaul facilities to provide a farm that is potentially smaller but can sustain the same amount of livestock.

“We are looking at agriculture in an urban environment so there needs to be a deep consideration of the needs of the animals but also an awareness of how we interface the urban with the rural. The objective is to provide environments that would be extremely comfortable and animal friendly and also demonstrate that modern agriculture is precise, quantifiable, compassionate and oriented towards profitability.”

The dairy at Hurlstone has long been its showpiece and it has been central to the redevelopment. Robots will be introduced to aid in data capture and illustrate modern milking methods, showing students the role of this technology. All animal and plant enterprises will be designed to allow replication and research studies with a view to engaging senior students modem agricultural science. Agronomy and soil production systems will also feature.

“We want to retain the opportunity for humans and animals to bond the way they should and combine this with science so that students can understand modern agriculture. These are critical aspects that students need to see in order to formulate ideas about careers in agriculture and we will show them that we can feed the planet, nurture the landscape and look after our animals well,” Ian says.

Crafting Careers in Agriculture – Meet Kris Beazley Principal of Centre of Excellence in Agricultural Education

The world has changed – we are living in a new norm. Today in our Crafting Careers in Agriculture series we are looking at how our education system is adapting to support our young people to be resilient and thrive in the new norm.

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Taking a new approach to learning by partnering with tertiary institutions, industry and community is the goal of Richmond Agricultural College’s Centre for Excellence in Agricultural Education. In this edition of our Crafting Careers series we talk with Principal Kris Beazley on how the new model works and how it equips young people for a career in the agricultural industry.

 

The recently formed Centre of Excellence is still developing and stretching its educational wings and Kris is excited to be on the frontline of an educational revolution. “The Centre of Excellence is a privileged place to be because we have had the luxury of taking some time to look at our curriculum and ask how we can do it differently, meet syllabus outcomes and ensure authentic, partnered and applied learning opportunities for our students,” she says. “In addition to our stand-alone AgSTEM high school we have the capacity to work with schools from Kindergarten to Year 12 across the state in delivering AgSTEM, sustainability and  careers education, and teacher professional learning.”

The Centre has five pillars of learning: agriculture, STEM, sustainability, Aboriginal Knowledges and career-transition. “Everything we do aligns to those components,” Kris says. “We want our young people to have the confidence and agency to use their capabilities, not only for career purposes but as change agents in community and society. We talk about our young people being social entrepreneurs in everything they do, and that is very important to us.”

Using a transdisciplinary rather than siloed approach to the curriculum the Centre of Excellence is underpinned by partnered learning, which is reflected in its location on Western Sydney University’s (WSU) Hawkesbury campus. But the partnering does not end with tertiary institutions. Instead partnerships with industry and community are actively encouraged. Students work on design thinking projects with members of society as diverse as astronauts, local permaculture community organisations and industry at a local and national level. “In all elements of our programs we have developed partnered learning opportunities for our students beyond the school,” Kris says.

Another aspect of the Centre is its ability to deliver programs into schools across the state, with a focus on agriculture and sustainability, on topics such as protected cropping and food production, the importance of bees and river health. As with the fulltime campus delivery, partnering is critical. “We give young people a real world problem and ask them to be part of a real world solution,” Kris says. “These programs give kids the power to go and stand side by side with people in industry and community.”

Hackathons are another innovative way the Centre educates. During hackathons students and teachers work to develop solutions to real world problems and create new future possibilities. In their recent series of Hackathons with Cotton Australia, Woolmark/Wool Innovation, Adobe and tertiary institutions students explored the future possibilities of sustainable fibre in Australia, considering issues such as the supply chain, circularity, impacts  on rural communities, cities and consumers. The Centre also delivers Hackathons linked to Bees and Pollinators, sustainable fashion, water management and other contemporary issues. A hackathon was a contributing factor in Penrith Valley Learning School’s winning entry in the 2020 Archibull Prize. “They did a full day hackathon with us where all students engaged in deep learning and critical thinking. All students in the group contributed to a collective design solution through developing their ideas, intense feedback, prototyping and testing; we thought about what they valued and gave them the research, communication and critical thinking skills to take their project to reality. Watching a group of young people stand up and have agency and voice was extremely powerful.”

Empowering young people to find and use their voice is the cornerstone to this revolution in agricultural education. With voice and agency students will not only become the changemakers of tomorrow, but will start this journey in their primary and secondary years today. They will be confident to ask the right questions and network with experts in industry, policy making, research and the community. In doing so they are confident consumers, wise decision makers and more importantly have a greater understanding of the opportunities available to them in the Australian Agriculture and STEM industries.  Australian agriculture will be stronger because of it.

 

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

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.

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

 

Crafting Careers in Agriculture Rob Kaan says it starts with engaging with young people and their parents (our consumers )

“We see the consumer being just as important as the farmer. Changing entrenched cultural values and beliefs held by parents is challenging so it’s really important to us to focus on students, which is why we target agriculture and STEM education in schools around the world. This helps the kids form their own educated and hopefully positive views on agriculture.” Rob Kaan MD Corteva Agriscience Australia/NZ/Japan/Korea

At Picture You in Agriculture (PYiA) we have four goals.

Achieving Goal 4 – attracting the best and brightest people to the agriculture sector which we do using our Young Farming Champions as role models in our in-school programs The Archibull Prize and Kreative Koalas also requires a whole of sector commitment to

  • expose young people as early as possible to jobs in agriculture whilst they are at school
  • ensure there are multiple touch points to agriculture along their school journey
  • equip students and job seekers with navigation resources into agricultural career pathways and jobs
  • ensure industry routinely assesses its skills and credential requirements
  • inspire the agriculture sector to take a whole of supply chain approach to being the image we want the world to see.

In this Crafting Careers in Agriculture* series we speak with leaders in the industry to understand their views on the future of the agricultural workplace.

Following the opinion piece from Young Farming Champion Emma Ayliffe our first Thought Leader is Rob Kaan

Rob is the managing director – Australia/NZ/Japan/Korea – at Corteva Agriscience, a company ahead of the curve when it comes to workforce forecasting to ensure they have the right team on the ground supporting farmers now and in the future.

Rob believes engaging with school and university students and, in turn, their parents (the consumers) is an important avenue for attracting people to agriculture.

“We see the consumer being just as important as the farmer. Changing entrenched cultural values and beliefs held by parents is challenging so it’s really important to us to focus on students, which is why we target agriculture and STEM education in schools around the world. This helps the kids form their own educated and hopefully positive views on agriculture.”

“It’s also why working with PYiA is important because it provides a pipeline from school to university, allowing us to identify and develop talent. A great example is Corteva’s Steph Tabone who has recently joined the Young Farming Champion program.”

Sparking an agricultural interest in students and the consumers is only one step to attracting the future agricultural workforce. Rob believes creating a workplace where people want to work is critical and Corteva is actively addressing this.

“Diversity in many forms is important but gender diversity is critical so we work to have positive policies in place such as maternity and paternity leave and strive to have gender balance within our teams and leadership. Employee flexibility is another important factor and this has been highlighted with COVID. We still need good guidelines and rules in place to support collaboration, but I think young people want a flexible work environment. Another factor is technology. School kids don’t always make the connection between cool technology and agriculture. That is a big gap and one we want to change.”

Finally, Rob talks about what he calls the purpose of agriculture; a notion that the sector not only provides food and fibre, but is influenced by holistic real-word interests.

“Relationships with food companies and the active promotion of integrated pest management (IPM) are important activities that support our corporate values. Young people are also interested in these issues and issues such as sustainability and climate change.”

Corteva’s identification of the needs of the future workplace puts them in an optimum position to be an employer of choice for the students they are currently reaching in schools. And what example would Rob give them of a cool career?

“The future challenges for agriculture are both daunting and exciting at the same time, with a singular focus on the global need to grow more food with less; less labour, less water, less land and less impact. Developing and utilising automated technology is a great example of this– anything from driverless vehicles, sprayers and harvesters to specialised drones and satellites. Automation using cutting edge technology is going to be a huge global market that will help solve significant labour shortage issues in all countries.”

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

Rob readily admits to having no affiliation or connection with agriculture during his childhood years. In fact, he wanted to be a veterinarian.

“I didn’t get the HSC marks to directly enter vet science, so the only other pathway was through agricultural science at Sydney University. Once I entered this stream, I found I really enjoyed it and stayed with a focus on agronomy.”

Connect with Rob on LinkedIn

* The Crafting Careers series is an initiative of the Youth Voices Leadership Team (YVLT) and their commitment to

  • expose young people as early as possible to jobs in agriculture whilst they are at school
  • ensure there are multiple touch points to agriculture along their school journey
  • equip students and job seekers with navigation resources into agricultural career pathways and jobs
  • ensure industry routinely assesses its skills and credential requirements
  • inspire the agriculture sector to take a whole of supply chain approach to being the image we want the world to see

Emma Ayliffe says there is an urgent need for industry to take a whole of farm approach to careers in agriculture.

We are very excited to be launching our Crafting Career series which is a culmination of a number of interviews with thought leaders in the agriculture and education sectors that call for the agriculture sector to move from awareness to action to ensure we are workforce ready now and in the future

The Crafting Careers series is an initiative of the Youth Voices Leadership Team (YVLT) and their commitment to

  • expose young people as early as possible to jobs in agriculture whilst they are at school
  • ensure there are multiple touch points to agriculture along their school journey
  • equip students and job seekers with navigation resources into agricultural career pathways and jobs
  • ensure industry routinely assesses its skills and credential requirements
  • inspire the agriculture sector to take a whole of supply chain approach to being the image we want the world to see

The series begins with an opinion piece by the 2020 Chair of the YVLT Emma Ayliffe which appeared in print and online media this week and is reprinted below

Over the next six weeks Rob Kaan MD of Corteva, Dr Neil Moss from SBScibus, Craig French from Australian Wool Innovation, Tony Mahar(National Farmers Federation) Lesley Leyland (Austral Fisheries)  Professor Jim Pratley and Scott Graham from Barker College will share their vision for a thriving agriculture sector that has a human centred design approach

“We are all only as good as the people we surround ourselves with”

Emma Ayliffe (right) with Summit Ag director Heath McWhirter and consultants Ben, Chelsea and Sam.

Opinion

As an agronomist, farmer, business owner and Young Farming Champion sharing my career journey in schools I know agriculture is providing me with an amazing career.

 

I work in agriculture. One day I might be out in the field advising a cotton grower about how to control whitefly, another day I will be managing my business, Summit Ag Agricultural Consulting, where we have six team members. I’m also a farmer producing wool, first cross lambs and growing wheat, oats, barley and canola. As a Young Farming Champion, I share my agricultural experiences with school kids in the city and the country.

 

I am continually discovering that many students are interested and passionate about agriculture, but they don’t know the breadth and depth of opportunities.

 

Yet we hear every day about on-farm staff shortages, and the consequences of this for increasing food prices. As people involved in agriculture, we need to become far more proactive and strategic in the way we promote agriculture as a career of first choice.

 

The statistics are in our favour. Research tells us there are six jobs for every graduate from an agriculture-related degree. For those not looking for an on-farm job,  82% of those jobs are beyond the farm gate and 40% are in cities. In the next ten years there will be a 15% growth in scientific, research and information technology jobs which support the production of food and fibre. There is also expected to be a 10% increase in jobs behind the farm gate and a 9% increase in jobs that provide agricultural education and training. Agriculture really has got it all.

Research also tells us that young people going from primary to secondary schools have closed their minds to 70% of the careers that are available. We also know 46% of Australians have at least one parent who wasn’t born here.

 

Reaching the hearts and minds of the next generation of agriculturists requires us to reach the hearts and minds of their parents. This starts in our schools. Going into schools and speaking with students, as I do with my role as a Young Farming Champion, means the potential future workforce can see what a career in agriculture looks like. It gives them role models and expands their view of agriculture behind and beyond the farm gate.

 

But if we are going to have real impact promoting agriculture to the next generation, we must move beyond sharing statistics and become specific. We must be able to show future employees (and their parents) what the jobs are and where they are.

 

This means our industry bodies need to provide clarity about predicting and planning for our future workforce needs. If we are to evolve and keep pace with our changing world and respond quickly and positively to unexpected events, we must have strategies for recruiting, training and developing capability, and mobility.

 

Students need to understand that a dairy herd manager can earn $150,000 a year and work internationally. They need to know  that you don’t need the HSC or tertiary education qualifications to earn $2000 for a four-day week as a shearer. Students need to be aware of the career opportunities available – from  modifying cutting edge technology to produce automated vehicles for the cropping industry to contributing to healthy oceans through working within aquaculture.

 

Then students can go home and influence the views of their parents and their communities – our consumers.

 

We also need industry to step up and provide an attractive workplace for future employees; workplaces that embrace diversity and gender balance, workplaces that offer flexible ways of doing business and workplaces that use high-end technology.

 

We need to showcase agriculture as providing food and fibre as well as delivering on strong consumer-driven ethics around issues such as climate change and sustainability.

 

To ensure agriculture attracts the best and brightest employees of the future we need to start now. We must identify skills gaps, conduct workplace forecasting, invest in our young leaders, promote positive stories, and listen to the consumer who is often the parent of tomorrow’s agriculturist.

 

I have an extraordinary career in agriculture. I want others to know they can too.

Seen first at Grain Central