Evidence from government organisations, industry groups, academics and almost anyone who has ever tried to find highly-skilled candidates for agriculture job vacancies, is that the Australian agriculture sector faces a near critical skills shortage.
While agriculture is the biggest employer in rural and regional Australia, employing around 300,000 people directly and more than 1.6 million people across the supply chain[i]; workforce capacity looms as the sector’s most significant issue.
As the sector faces the challenge of feeding a rapidly growing global population and increasing technical complexity, the composition of jobs and available career paths have changed considerably in recent times and now the opportunities are abundant.
For the past 10 years, there have consistently been many more jobs available in agriculture than there are qualified candidates. University graduates finishing agriculture-related degrees can expect to have full-time employment secured before they’ve completed their degree. Indeed, according to the latest research from Charles Sturt University’s Professor Jim Pratley there are upwards of five jobs for each graduate in the current market[ii].
It needs to be said that most of these graduates (and indeed many of the people employed in the agriculture sector) are not farmers. The Australian agriculture industry is about the whole value chain, from on-farm production through to transport, manufacturing, marketing, finance, innovation, services and more.
We have to bust the myth that agriculture equals farming. You don’t have to be a farmer to work in agriculture, you don’t have to have an agricultural background or qualification to work in agriculture, and you don’t necessarily have to live in a rural area to be part of the sector.
Really, it’s any job that is involved in the production of food, feed and fibre or that supports that production and helps get those products to market. It’s everything from a graphic designer working on packaging concepts for supermarket rice cakes to engineers building robots to monitor fruit trees to the train driver delivering wheat to port and much more.