One way to bring home the ba­con

Agri­cul­ture jobs are there for the tak­ing, write Cara Jenkin and De­bra Bela

The Courier-Mail - Career One - - Job Focus -

ON paper, it ap­pears jobs are be­ing lost in agri­cul­ture – but there has never been a bet­ter time to get work feed­ing and cloth­ing the state.

While the Aus­tralian Bureau of Sta­tis­tics re­ports a de­cline in the num­ber of people em­ployed in the agri­cul­ture, fish­ing and forestry sec­tor in the past 13 years, it is not be­cause of a lack of jobs avail­able.

Re­search com­mis­sioned by the Aus­tralian Coun­cil of Deans of Agri­cul­ture found more than 4000 jobs re­quir­ing a ter­tiary ed­u­ca­tion in agri­cul­ture are ad­ver­tised each year.

Aus­tralian uni­ver­si­ties train about 800 stu­dents a year in agri­cul­ture cour­ses and en­rol­ments are de­clin­ing.

The coun­cil also re­vealed the me­dian start­ing salary for an agri­cul­ture grad­u­ate is com­pa­ra­ble to that of a law grad­u­ate, about $53,000.

The in­dus­try re­ports it is so tough to find Aus­tralian work­ers to fill jobs, em­ploy­ers are forced to re­cruit from over­seas. Univer­sity of Queens­land Dean of Agri­cul­ture Neal Men­zies says this dis­par­ity be­tween de­mand and sup­ply is in­dica­tive of people mis­un­der­stand­ing what an agri­cul­ture ca­reer means.

“This is an in­dus­try scream­ing out for grad­u­ates,’’ Men­zies says. “Un­for­tu­nately kids are leav­ing school and mov­ing into ar­eas like foren­sic sci­ence pro­grams be­cause they’ve seen it in a TV show.

“They are not go­ing to get a job from that.”

Agri­cul­tural sci­ence ca­reers fall within the “agri­cul­ture – not fur­ther de­fined” cat­e­gory, which the Depart­ment of Em­ploy­ment shows as the fastest grow­ing area of agri­cul­tural em­ploy­ment.

It in­creased by 67 per cent in the past five years and is ex­pected to grow a fur­ther 17 per cent (7000 jobs) by Novem­ber 2017.

Queens­land Agri­cul­ture Min­is­ter John McVeigh says ca­reers all along the sup­ply chain fall into this grow­ing cat­e­gory, “from ad­vis­ing farm­ers … to the lawyers, bankers and the buy­ing and mer­chan­dis­ing per­spec­tive of su­per­mar­kets.’’

Work­ers of­ten only need a high school cer­tifi­cate to get started, al­though McVeigh is work­ing to en­cour­age greater par­tic­i­pa­tion in postschool cour­ses.

Men­zies says more ed­u­ca­tion is needed to en­cour­age school-leavers to con­sider an agri­cul­ture de­gree.

He swapped a de­gree in den­tistry to pur­sue agri­cul­tural sci­ence in the 1980s, hop­ing to help stop the global famine as part of the green revo­lu­tion.

Af­ter 20 years of rel­a­tive pros­per­ity, Men­zies says the world is back on the brink of star­va­tion.

“We are at a point where glob­ally we need more food. There is global in­sta­bil­ity,” he says. “People are starv­ing again and strug­gling to find food.

“We are back at the point where agri­cul­ture be­comes in­ter­est­ing. How are we go­ing to avoid the wide­spread famine of the 1960s?”

This is where Men­zies sees Aus­tralia stand­ing apart as a world leader.

“Aus­tralian farm­ers are ex­tremely good at deal­ing with cli­mate vari­abil­ity, grow­ing crops on limited amounts of wa­ter, achiev­ing prof­itable pro­duc­tive sys­tems. So that’s what we sell to the world … our knowl­edge,’’ Men­zies says.

In Townsville this week, plans have been re­vealed to dou­ble Queens­land’s agri­cul­tural out­put, with Asia driv­ing de­mand for specialist crops, beef, seafood and su­gar.

McVeigh says turn­ing North Queens­land into a spe­cial

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