Article by: Hari Yellina
The Victorian government has unveiled a new training programme to encourage more people to pursue careers in agriculture and horticulture. The government will spend $600,000 on experimental initiatives in the Goulburn Valley, Sunraysia, and Gippsland that will involve industry workers studying for a certificate two or three in horticulture and agriculture. Local people will be able to earn while learning, according to Minister of Agriculture Mary-Anne Thomas. “This is something that industry has been calling for because they recognise that allowing individuals the opportunity to build actual skills and qualifications as they go is critical to drawing a workforce to horticulture and agriculture in general,” she added.
Apprenticeship Employment Network will be in charge of the new traineeships. Dean Luciani, the network’s chair, stated that the network will engage with industry in each of the test locations to ensure that the programme was appropriate for the area. “Obviously fruit growing here in this location,” he continued, “but there might be more of an agricultural concentration in other parts of Victoria.” “We want to engage well over 100 people in each location, and the problem will be converting those raw numbers into outcomes and determining how many people complete the traineeship.” Mr Luciani said the trial would look into career guidance offered to young people, including influencing people’s perceptions of what professions are available in horticulture and agriculture.
Jason Shields, orchard manager at Plunkett Orchards in Mooroopna, said he would not be where he is today without his apprenticeship, and he agreed that perceptions around traineeships and apprenticeships needed to shift. “Someone who performs a traineeship or apprenticeship is four years ahead of someone who went to university, since someone who went to university was not paid for four years and has a debt,” he explained. Many people, Mr Shields said, are unaware of the opportunities available in the business today, and that with the increased use of technology in orchards and the expansion of farms, more qualified staff are required. “We need middle management personnel, supervisors, tractor operators, forklift operators,” he said. It’s the middle-tier worker who can end up with a career, not just picking fruit all day.