With a growing global population, food security will be one of the most important issues facing future generations. Paradoxically, these generations might have little to no connection to farming - if current trends continue. This week is Education Week, a time to discuss current and future career opportunities in agriculture, as well as the need for greater awareness around one of Australia's most important sectors.
Building awareness around food and fibre production can, and should, start at a young age. Industry and government must partner to expand opportunities to teach kids where the food on their plate and the wool or cotton on their back comes from.
Resource development through the Primary Industries Education Foundation (PIEFA) is an important starting place to build this awareness. NSW Farmers is delivering the popular Kids to Farms program, which aims to increase primary school students' familiarity with farming through excursions and classroom incursions.
High school curriculums must keep up with the evolving opportunities in agriculture, as well as encompass traditional ones. Technological disruption and innovation will alter agriculture, and the education sector must stay abreast of the emerging and diversified skill sets required to thrive - especially as the uptake of agri-tech increases.
For school leavers, the pathways to a career in agriculture are many and varied, and may or may not involve going to university. Vocational Education and Training in high school courses would provide exposure to different career options in agriculture and the entry level skills required.
Education is a key tool for adapting to change. Upskilling will be common across sectors as major disruptors reshape the workforce. Agriculture will be no exception, and the farmers of today should have access to skills which aid value-add opportunities and the uptake of technology.
Importantly, schools across regional NSW must be maintained to ensure students access the knowledge and skills they need to launch them into a satisfying work environment. Let's raise the profile of these important issues this Education Week.
- James Jackson, NSW Farmers president
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