Slashed fund­ing hits in­dus­try and thou­sands of agri­cul­ture stu­dents

Daily Mercury - - NEWS - CAITLAN CHARLES [email protected]­re­gional­me­dia.com.au

“ED­U­CA­TION should be con­sid­ered a solid in­vest­ment.”

That is what Stephen An­drew, state Mem­ber for Mi­rani, said about the re­moval of fund­ing for the School to In­dus­try Part­ner­ship Pro­gram and the de­ci­sion to close two of Queens­lands agri­cul­tural schools at the end of 2019.

The pro­gram has al­lowed stu­dents to have ac­cess to in­dus­try pro­fes­sion­als since it be­gan.

“The SIPP has a 15-year his­tory of bring­ing agri­cul­tural ed­u­ca­tion closer to thou­sands of Aus­tralian kids grow­ing up in places like Bris­bane,” Mr An­drew said.

“With stub­born amounts of youth un­em­ploy­ment, and qual­ity learn­ing places at the last re­main­ing ag col­lege go­ing un­filled, on top of drop­ping of fund­ing for the SIPP pro­gram, these two events leave lit­tle hope in at­tract­ing fu­ture gen­er­a­tions to agri­cul­ture; and even less once the Queens­land ag col­leges dis­ap­pear for­ever.

“Agri­cul­ture has been a big part of es­tab­lish­ing Aus­tralia and whilst the in­dus­try un­de­ni­ably faces many strug­gles; it is still worth $14b to the Queens­land econ­omy and un­der­pins hun­dreds of ru­ral and re­mote com­mu­ni­ties.”

Last year, the State Gov­ern­ment an­nounced it would no longer pro­vide the $181,000 to fund SIPP, be­cause it was no longer rel­e­vant, which is fiercely de­nied by the Na­tional Ag Ed­u­ca­tors’ As­so­ci­a­tion.

AgForce CEO Michael Guerin said the agri­cul­ture in­dus­try was ab­so­lutely dumb­founded as to why such an im­por­tant and cost-ef­fec­tive pro­gram that reached more than 10,000 stu­dents at hun­dreds of schools ev­ery year was cut.

“For many city kids, SIPP of­fered their only op­por­tu­nity to learn about farming, about how their food is grown, and about what an in­ter­est­ing and di­verse en­vi­ron­ment agri­cul­ture in Queens­land is,” Mr Guerin said. “For many kids, SIPP events are the first time they have ever touched a farm an­i­mal, felt real wool or an ear of wheat, seen a trac­tor or har­vester or talked with a farmer.”

Hardy Manser, Queens­land Ag Teach­ers As­so­ci­a­tion pres­i­dent and cen­tral Queens­land teacher, said this would not just im­pact 10,000 stu­dents, but the teach­ers too.

“With the pro­fes­sional de­vel­op­ment we have re­ceived (with this pro­gram), all of those teach­ers go­ing back to their stu­dents, it will be ex­po­nen­tially larger,” Mr Manser said.

He added that in­dus­tries will change over time, and it’s im­por­tant for teach­ers to be able to ad­e­quately pre­pare stu­dents for the fu­ture.

“In re­al­ity, the SIPP is a pretty mas­sive tool in our arse­nal,” he said.

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