Cultivating the next generation: The role of school-based educators in promoting agricultural careers

  • 96 pages

  • Published: 6 Oct 2023

  • Author(s): Amy Cosby, Nicole McDonald, Eloise Fogary, Melissa Sullivan, Nikki Kelly, Jaime Manning

  • ISBN: 978-1-76053-407-3

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The agricultural industry has an ambitious target of being a $100 billion industry by 2030. To reach this goal, a passionate, skilled and motivated workforce is vital. Agricultural career opportunities are often perceived as limited to traditional roles, requiring manual labour and poorly paid.

However, as the agricultural industry undergoes a digital transformation, the careers available, and the skills required, are shifting. People with skills and knowledge in science, technology, engineering, mathematics (STEM) and business are in high demand. To ensure the agricultural industry can attract and retain a highly skilled workforce, it is vital the next generation are aware of the variety of career opportunities, have a favourable perception of the sector as an employer of choice and can connect their personal interests, strengths and values to a career in agriculture. Crucial to improving and increasing the perception of careers in agriculture are individuals who provide career advice in secondary schools.

This research investigated the perceptions, current knowledge, and resources needed by NSW school-based educators when promoting further education and career pathways into the agricultural industry. The project comprised of two concurrent activities: (1) a state-wide online survey collecting qualitative and quantitative data from career advisors, classroom teachers, school-based transition advisors and school leaders to identify their current knowledge, perception and awareness of the agricultural industry including career opportunities. Information was also sought to better understand survey participants’ current career education practice and additional resources required; and (2) online focus groups with teaching teams from government, private and Catholic schools across metropolitan, regional and rural NSW. Each focus group included school staff involved in providing career advice to students and investigated factors captured through the online survey in greater depth.

Quantitative data was analysed using descriptive and inferential statistics that identified relationships between perceptions of agricultural careers and the delivery of career advice. A content and thematic analysis was undertaken of qualitative data to develop a snapshot reporting career practices at a range of schools, including how careers in agriculture are currently taught. Both qualitative and quantitative data were analysed to identify the support measures and resources NSW secondary schools require, and barriers they face when communicating and engaging with students to increase their awareness of careers in agriculture.

The findings from the two phases informed the development of a detailed outline of five resources that aim to improve the quality and frequency of agricultural careers advice delivered to NSW secondary students. These resources can be used to upskill and engage educators involved with providing career advice to students to build better knowledge and connections with the world of agricultural work. The five resources proposed for development are: (1) curriculum-aligned single-lesson resources; (2) short two-to-three-minute video case studies showcasing how careers in agriculture solve problems; (3) incursions and excursions involving agricultural industry role models; (4) a guide for industry, schools, and students to undertake valuable work placements and experience; and (5) career advisor and teacher professional development, including face-to-face and online options.

The report concludes by proposing a strategy for a national approach to improve the transition of secondary school students to further education and/or a career in the agricultural industry. This involves developing and implementing each of the five resources across each state and territory, allowing for place-based nuances. Any programs developed should be funded for a minimum of five years to allow schools to integrate these activities into their yearly planning and for their value to be realised. An extensive monitoring and evaluation framework should accompany program roll-out to allow continuous improvement and track changes in student and teacher perceptions, and knowledge of careers in agriculture.