Beth Shakeshaft, 24, is cutting her agronomy teeth out on the plains of western NSW, carrying an Ag Science degree under her arm and enjoying helping farmers with the constant challenges they face.
But a new course in professional development has boosted her skills set where she can help farmers with everything from work health and safety and industrial issues, not just agronomy.
Ms Shakeshaft grew up in the Blue Mountains and was always interested in plants eventually completing an Ag Science degree at Sydney University. Before she’d even finished her degree, Elders offered her a position as an agronomist – and so she moved to Lake Cargellico in 2015, 450km from her home. She has since moved to Elders in Griffith and now works with clients and growers on cotton and broadacre agronomy issues.
But she found there was a skills set she wanted to develop, from managing staff to giving a broader range of advice to farmers and clients. She enrolled in a program known as GROW (Generating Regionally Outstanding Women) and recently was one of 104 graduates from the three-pronged course.
It’s a course provided by Tocal College and funded through the AgSkilled program, a training initiative of the NSW Government, with industry partners the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) and Cotton Australia. There were 65 of those women at a graduation ceremony in Sydney recently.
Ms Shakeshaft said moving to Lake Cargellico was confronting at first in such a remote area, “but it was a good experience and people were very welcoming”. While she was there she joined the GROW program workshops out of Parkes. In the first workshop she learnt about people management and personal development. The second part was work health and safety. “I feel I can now help farmers implement some of those changes.” She then studied Human Resources and Industrial Relations and “how to build good relationships with your staff”. She was one of the few employees, not an employer, in the course. “Now I can be more useful to clients in their business, and help with how agribusinesses work.”
GROW program manager Rebecca Fing said the course was all bout empowering regional women to use their leadership skills to generate positive change. “While many regional communities don’t have the breadth of resources metropolitan communities do, we believe having strong rural businesses can have a huge impact in building resilience and strength in our towns. That’s why workplace health and safety and human resource management is the other key focus of this program – strong businesses build strong communities.”