Step Up: Australian Agriculture Needs to Tackle Future Skills Needs Head-On

While Australian agriculture faces an exciting period of growth, an ageing workforce and skills shortages need to be addressed. Image licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Growing international demand for Australian food, changing food trends and an ageing agricultural workforce will have a significant impact upon the pool of available workers unless the industry finds innovative ways to train, attract and retain workers.

That’s according to the draft 2018-2021 Agriculture, Horticulture, Conservation and Land Management IRC Skills Forecast, recently released for industry feedback.

The report – which identifies industry skills gaps, future skills needs and required training and qualifications – will be lodged with the Australian Industry and Skills Commission to inform the development of training packages in line with sector needs.

The resource outlines the pressures facing a growing agriculture industry including increasing global demand for Australian food with two-thirds of all agricultural produce now exported overseas. Emerging food trends and the potential for medicinal crops are also creating new opportunities for Australian agriculture and agribusinesses.

While the demand side looks rosy, a shortage of skilled labour could hamper the industry’s ability to capitalise on the opportunities. Approximately 23% of the agricultural workforce is likely to retire over the next five years. The industry is dominated by roles with specific skill sets that are generally not easily transferred to other sectors. Finding labour for seasonal work such as fruit packing is notoriously difficult, and unlikely to improve without significant government policy change.

“A significant number of the industry’s workforce occupy roles that are unique and specific to the relevant sub-sectors, such as livestock and crop farmers, farm workers, shearers, agricultural and horticultural plant operators, nurserypersons and other nursery workers, and gardeners. A significant proportion of the workforce is also employed to undertake more general roles, such as clerical and administrative work” – IRC Skills Forecast and Proposed Schedule of Work 2018-2021.

The report identifies ‘priority skill sets’ including such as integrated pest management, robotics and precision agriculture, carbon farming, product innovation and medicinal crops as drivers for changes to the relevant training packages in order to meet future industry needs.

DIY Skilled Workforce: US Developer Implores Employers to Take Control of Developing Staff

An open letter on LinkedIn has sparked conversation about the need for employers to tackle skills shortages head on.

Kim Arnett, a US-based software developer, used her post to reprimand employers for not being more involved in future-proofing their workforce through a lack of entry-level positions.

“But, we have a problem here. You see, there are NO entry-level jobs and internships are also fading. Why? I’m not sure. I’m also not sure what’s going to happen to the senior developer market pool in the coming years if no one is entering that pool due to lack of entry-level positions and experience now.”

The post, which has since been ‘liked’ 1204 times, argues that the black hole of skilled workers could be solved by hiring and training unskilled workers.

“Start a training program; add internships and entry-level positions to help fill the gap. People are here, give them a chance.”

Sources: Skills Impact, LinkedIn

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