WHILE opportunities in trade apprenticeships have slowed in the mining sector, agricultural opportunities are increasing, said Chamber of Commerce and Industry WA, agrifood labour and skills consultant Jackie Jarvis.
“As vocational students have finished school there is a huge pressure for them to get into the right career,” she said.
“While some students hoped to get a trade in mining, most are not aware of the range of opportunities within agriculture.
“A certificate in agriculture is a good pathway and is the equivalent of getting a trade these days.”
Working with the Sheep Industry Leadership Council (SILC), Ms Jarvis has more than 15 employers in the industry wanting to take on a young trainee on farm.
“The sheep industry wants more young people entering the industry,” she said.
“In the past few years trades have pulled back on entrants, so there are not a lot of trade apprenticeships on offer, but there are opportunities in ag.
“We saw this opportunity and asked growers what skills they wanted, we then made sure we matched those skills to the Certificate III in Agriculture.
“I don’t think people understand a Certificate in Agriculture is basically run the same way as an apprenticeship.”
A Certificate III in Agriculture would take a trainee 12 months to complete, working on farm and attending TAFE.
Following the completion of this certificate, the following year trainees can complete a Certificate IV in Agriculture, which is a pathway to university.
“At 15, if your child decided they didn’t want to go to university when they finish school, after two years of working they would have a pathway to university, which gives them options,” Ms Jarvis said.
“This pathway is a nationally recognised qualification.”
Ms Jarvis said even if you worked in beef and wanted to work with sheep, the skills were transferable.
“It’s not a dead-end farm hand job,” she said.
“Essentially it can open doors to a range of opportunities in ag.
“Once upon a time you didn’t need a certificate, but these days everyone wants to know what your formal qualifications are, so this is a way of formalising what you learn on the job.
“It is also great for gap years, to train in the beef sector or the grains industry to learn more skills.”
Marcus and Shannon Sounness have been using this program for the past eight months and were impressed with the number of applicants and their enthusiasm.
Mr and Mrs Sounness run 3000 hectares of mixed cropping and 3000 breeding ewes in Amelup.
Mr Sounness previously used contractors, casuals and backpackers on farm before hiring 18-year-old Rebecca Waters.
He said he opted for a full-time trainee, due to the high turn over in the business.
“You could get some good ones, but there were always employees that were not really that interested,” he said.
“Having someone full-time was a transition, but if you are willing to train them and put in the time it is worth it.
“We hired Rebecca in February, she travelled from NSW to work for us.
“She had no cropping or machinery experience, but had stock experience as she comes from the cattle industry.”
Ms Waters is studying an Advanced Diploma in Agriculture via distance learning and plans to continue her studies in agriculture through a three year university degree at the University of New England.
“I wanted to do something different than just go up North,” she said.
“It is a good experience plus it is a good thing to put on my resume.
“I have been learning the office work, getting an understanding of the planning and farm management side of work, operating the machinery as well as learning the mechanical side.”
Ms Waters said through this experience she had developed an interest in later pursuing a rural consultancy or property planning and agronomy role.
“After being here I have even considered managing a farm,” she said.
“My dad didn’t want me to get into agriculture at first, because they had such a hard
time over east and didn’t want that for us.
“But now they see how happy I am, so mum and dad support me.
“I would recommend this role to any school leaver studying at an agricultural school or not.
“It gives you independence, good work ethics and there is a good community spirit in the country to get out and socialise and play sports.”
Mr Sounness said the experience has been rewarding from a business point of view.
“We are supporting her, and mentor her through her studies,” he said.
“I recommend farmers look into traineeships and put some work into their recruitment process.
“For us, we put the work in and we have picked up a fantastic young woman who we are proud to have on board.
“If she goes on to bigger things, then at least we have made a contribution to the industry.
“This is a more sustainable way for industry, I would rather put my time into training someone who is interested and wants to learn.”
p For information or to register for a traineeship visit www.skillsroad.com.au/ home or contact Jackie Jarvis at the Chamber of Commerce and Industry on (08) 9365 7670 or email Jackie.Jarvis@cciwa.com.
Jacinta Bolsenbroek, Stock & Land