Training has lots of benefits for the whole agricultural sector, for individual farming businesses, and can open new opportunities for the individuals.
There are now more options than ever to access training which can lead to new career pathways.
NSW government is providing support for these pathways through a variety of funding programs which subsidise the cost, and in some cases provide fee-free qualifications as is the case with the Skilling For Recovery program.
Tocal College has been working with NSW government funding programs to provide training for industry ranging from practical farm skills training in farm operations, through to diploma level training for farm managers.
For the past three years, Tocal College has been a major provider of training under the NSW government AgSkilled funding program specifically targeted for people working in the grain and cotton industries.
This program has been extended for a further three years, and now also includes the viticulture and production horticulture industries.
AgSkilled will continue to provide the opportunity for workers in these industries to attain new skills which will improve productivity and safety on farms.
Tocal College offers training courses via both face-to-face workshops and online in order to make training accessible to people in rural and regional areas.
Practical skills training, where demonstration and supervised practice are required, is best delivered face-to-face, while some more theoretical subjects can be effectively delivered online.
In some cases, a combination of face-to-face and online is used.
Tocal College delivers face-to-face training in just about every local area of NSW when required.
Some participants in AgSkilled training courses have taken the opportunity to use their experience in the industry, and the accreditation gained through fully subsidised AgSkilled training courses, to work towards attaining a full qualification by undertaking further studies.
This pathway to a full qualification is open to people who have completed practical skills training or higher level technical and management training courses.
One of the most successful programs delivered through AgSkilled has been GROW - Growing Regionally Outstanding Women.
Tocal College has partnered with Rebecca Fing, of House Paddock Training and Consulting, to deliver this program.
The GROW training program was initially delivered as face-to-face workshops in 2017 and 2018 but since the COVID19 movement restrictions this year has been redesigned and is now delivered very successfully as a fully online course.
Over 200 participants have completed this program with some now working towards attaining a Diploma of Agribusiness Management qualification.
Through completing the GROW program, these participants have already attained four of the 10 units required for the qualification and they are now working toward completing the qualification through Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) and/or further online courses.
A great example of persons completing a range of courses to attain a full qualification and pursue a new career direction is Lee Gullifer, who has just completed his Diploma of Agriculture.
With the diploma, Lee has been able to gain advanced standing toward a Bachelor of Agriculture degree at Charles Sturt University to commence in 2021.
Lee is now pursuing his goal of attaining a degree qualification and becoming a professional agronomist.
Lee is from a farming background in the Binya district and started his career working as a technician with Claas and Case New Holland equipment for 10 years.
In this field, he specialised in GPS guidance and precision farming solutions.
He now works for Kalyx Australia as a research assistant managing research trials across the Riverina.
Lee commenced his studies with the online Tocal Diploma of Agriculture in 2019.
He has also attended two of Tocal College face-to-face workshop courses (Precision Agronomy at Jerilderie and Introduction to Agronomy at Yanco) funded by the AgSkilled program, attaining units towards his diploma.
Lee has completed all of the rest of his diploma through online studies.
"I really enjoyed the online courses and having the flexibility to work at my own pace," he said.
"You have to work at it but help was always available from college staff when I needed it.
"I'm looking forward to continuing on to my degree studies next year and, after finishing the diploma, I now have the confidence that I can do the work."
For people in rural and regional areas it has never been easier to take up studies and pursue career goals.
With Tocal College regionally delivered face-to-face courses and online courses providing great access and the subsidies currently available for NSW government through programs, it's a great time to take up the opportunity to gain a qualification.