Report Synopsis

Who will help run the farm? Creating a pathway to a career on farm for the next generation of farm managers

Daniel Kahl

For many in the agriculture industry around the world, an issue of significant concern is the sourcing of staff with the required skill set to assist in managing the operation of their farm businesses. In an environment of technological advancement, demographic shifts, urban-rural disconnect and increasing size, farm businesses struggle to access an appropriately trained and skilled workforce from which to source labour to fill the increasingly multifaceted roles on farm. In particular, the industry has a ‘missing middle’, with a dearth of talent to fill middle management roles that assist in both the decision-making process and the implementing of on farm operations.

This report investigates existing programs based in industry, education and privately, that assist in a person’s development towards a career in farm management. Globally, many programs exist in this field. However, what this report aims to do is examine the potential links between these programs and initiatives. By doing so, the objective is to develop a career path that begins at a primary school age and allows individuals to develop an appreciation of agriculture, make a head start in an agricultural career and develop knowledge with an emphasis on tying that knowledge to experience, to ensure the skills and abilities built up have an applied nature and are ‘paddock ready’.

Whilst not all the findings of this report maybe directly applicable at farm level, it’s aim is to provide a viewpoint that can provide industry with a bigger picture on the pathway required to bring more people into agriculture. What this report suggests is that by supporting and advocating for curriculum-based programs in the classroom, more children from a broader range of backgrounds can be introduced to agricultural whilst learning their Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) subjects. It also suggests that by supporting school-based traineeships and apprenticeships, those who are inclined towards agriculture can be given a head start. In turn, by helping to establish and utilise links between vocational and tertiary education institutions, agriculture can further up skill its workforce and importantly keep all participants engaged in further learning.

The resolution of this issue is as multifaceted as the skills requirement of the ‘missing middle’. What it is important is the creation of a pathway that engages the next generation of farm managers at a young age and sets them on a trajectory towards a career in 4agriculture and farm management that will allow them to enjoy professional and personal development, provide the opportunity to build a career in agriculture without necessarily coming from a farming background and to allow the agriculture industry to further build its capacity and not be hamstrung by a lack of human capital.

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