Lure of the land has students turning to farming
The number of students applying to study agriculture at universities across Australia has leapt by more than 15 per cent this year, fuelling hopes the rural skills crisis may soon end.
Victorian Higher Education Minister Peter Hall announced a 14 per cent rise in the number of students offered tertiary places to study agriculture in Victoria this year.
The figures come against a backdrop of a 40 per cent decline in students taking agricultural science degrees across the country since 2000 and fears a skills shortage is strangling a nationwide agricultural boom.
In the 1980's, 23 university campuses around Australia provided agriculture and agricultural science degrees. Only 10 remain, producing fewer than 750 agricultural graduates annually with the necessary skills to fill the 4000-plus advertised agriculture-related jobs each year.
Jim Pratley, secretary of the Australian Council of Deans of Agriculture, said the good news about Victorian tertiary offers was being replicated nationally. He said student demand for agriculture course entry at universities and colleges this year had jumped by between 15 and 20 per cent nationally. "That's really encouraging because that's the first time we have had that for quite a few years," Professor Pratley said. There are six jobs available for every new Australian agricultural graduate, as employers in fields as diverse as agronomy, genetics, rural finance, farm management and research and development cry out for skilled workers.
As agriculture emerges as the most likely boom industry to take the place of the mining sector, industry leaders fear the shortage of university-trained agricultural scientists, economists and managers is restricting the ability of farming industries to expand and progress.
Source: theaustralian.com.au January 19-20, 2013