The rural sector must “maintain the rage’’ when it comes to attracting talent to meet the needs of an expanding industry.
Rebecca Milliken and Elissa Strong, of the Riverina Ag Network, were guest speakers at the official opening of the Henty Machinery Field Days, and told visitors the future of the agricultural workforce was not guaranteed without improving the sector’s image.
“We must move away from the traditional farmer icon, and promote agriculture as a truly fulfilling career choice,’’ Miss Milliken said.
“We are here representing an expanding, entrepreneurial, creative, opportunistic part of our economy that will continue to drive success.’’
Based at Wagga, the Riverina Ag Network aims to help industry to meet its future needs and drive growth.
Miss Strong said the Network had to play a part in driving the new approach of building skills, opportunities and confidence in young people to become industry leaders.
“Let’s leverage our momentum – young leaders are here, we want to play our role in shaping our industry,’’ she said.
“No longer do we just require traditional farmers. Support and service sectors are growing rapidly, from management and leadership to precision agriculture, agricultural engineering, data analytics to human resources and communications.
“One of the most exciting and unique aspects of the ag sector is the level of passion it inspires in those involved.’’
Miss Strong said it was well established there were not enough graduates to fill the available jobs in agriculture.
She said the latest findings show there were now five jobs to each graduate.
Miss Milliken said for the industry to overcome the persistent skill shortage, people needed to know ag was just not a sector for farmers.
NSW Farmers Association president Derek Schoen told field day visitors farm businesses and organisations faced a question of renewal or succession planning.
Mr Schoen said NSW Young Farmer branches had been established in the Riverina at Wagga, Griffith and Hay.
“This is to encourage the younger generation into the advocacy area,’’ he said.
“We give the Young Farmers representation on most of our committees to give them a feel of how to engage in the policy area.
“Another issue is handing over the reins on farm – in my travels it is obvious those operations moving ahead are where the younger generation have been able to take on responsibility at a young age.
“It is good to see the enthusiasm and drive the younger generation has put into practice.
“With the new technology, agriculture is not the ho-hum it used to be of long hours of repetitive work.’’
Mr Schoen encourages older farmers to simply give the younger generation – staff or children – the opportunity to show their worth.