Critical gap in practical industry training

Critical gap in practical industry training

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Practical needs: Warren farm manager Ben Egan says improving training is a critical part of ensuring the enduring profitability of family farms. Photo: supplied.

Practical needs: Warren farm manager Ben Egan says improving training is a critical part of ensuring the enduring profitability of family farms. Photo: supplied.

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Warren grain and cotton grower Ben Egan believes there is a critical training gap in his industry with limited courses available for those working at ‘paddock level’.

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Warren grain and cotton grower Ben Egan believes there is a critical training gap in his industry with limited courses available for those working at ‘paddock level’.

The young grower is farm manager at Kiameron Pastoral Company, an 8000 hectare family operation with 1750ha of irrigated cultivation, 1400ha of dryland farming and 4850ha of grazing country.

“At Kiameron we rely heavily on backpackers and casual labour, but finding people with the skillsets we need can be a challenge,” Mr Egan said.

He explained he was constantly looking for opportunities for both his permanent and casual staff to develop and improve their skills and knowledge.

“It seems as though we can get access to middle management through university training, but we struggle a lot with getting skilled assistance in that leading hand, irrigation worker type space,” Mr Egan said.

“I have undertaken further training at TAFE, but better training across all levels of the cotton and grains industry could really drive our productivity and profitability.”

He is now encouraging others involved in the grains and cotton sectors to have their say about what training was needed to future proof the grains and cotton industries as part of a new initiative called AgSkilled.

An initiative of the New South Wales Government in partnership with the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) and Cotton Australia has allocated $14.7 million over three years to increase staff skill levels and attract newcomers to the grains and cotton industries.

The GRDC and Cotton Australia are now conducting an industry-wide training needs survey to help track the immediate and future training needs of growers, on-farm staff and the broader industry.

The results of this survey will inform the rollout of the AgSkilled project across NSW.

Grains Research and Development Corporation Senior Regional Manager, North Jan Edwards is also encouraging NSW grain growers to use the survey to guide the delivery of relevant training courses.

“This is chance for growers to inform and guide what training is delivered to industry and ensure it is relevant at both a farm and industry level,” Ms Edwards said.

“Improving the training and building the knowledge of those working in agriculture is a critical part of ensuring the enduring profitability of family farms.

“I know growers are increasingly committed to making sure their employees and family members, who are working on-farm, have up-to-date skills and knowledge and this survey is one way of making sure they get what they need.”

New South Wales farmer Roger Bolte agrees, and said he is a staunch believer in training and building on the knowledge of the next generation of young people involved in agriculture.

“We’re certainly trying to steward younger growers and encourage them to be looking at how they farm and how they look after their land and hopefully try to improve it as they in turn pass it on to the next generation.”

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