Farm workers of tomorrow, where are they hiding?

Published 18 November 2013

8022411830_1bcf8215ec_qWith more than 100,000 skilled agricultural workers walking off the land during the past decade and a growing number of those remaining workers now on the verge of retirement, the tide is going out for farmers looking to retain or attract new staff.

Developing innovative solutions to this problem is the focus of a free public forum being held by the University of New England in Narrabri next week.

UNE is bringing together leading Agriculture stakeholders to work on the question, how will Australian farms train and secure enough skilled workers, managers and farm owners to satisfy growing demand to feed and clothe a hungry world beyond 2050?

UNE SMART Farm convenor and keen panel participant, Professor David Lamb says the public forum in Narrabri is both a chance to engage some leading minds as well as test ideas against the experience of audience members.

“In recent years the challenges faced by Australian farms in securing suitably trained staff have shown no sign of easing. Workers who drifted away from agriculture during the last drought were then lured by the temptation of the mining boom and simply failed to return to the land, leaving a shortfall in skills and experience that remains unfilled.

“The University of New England has taken a multi-discipline approach to tackling many of the challenges facing agriculture into the next half century, by bringing together expertise from UNE’s Schools of Science and Technology, Environmental and Rural Sciences, Health and Education to work with industry leaders to tackle these issues.

“That combined potential of bringing many minds to the table with different expertise is already displaying real benefits, so we are using a similar approach to shape the make-up of the panel for this event in Narrabri with participants invited from a broad range of Ag sectors and organisations.”

Professor Lamb says the public forum in Narrabri is a free event, designed to promote discussion about some other potential solutions to the Ag worker shortage.

“This is a rare opportunity to both hear from and question key stakeholders as they address how the ag sector can recruit and maintain the type of workforce needed to build a successful future for agriculture and the role of education in building the region’s capability.”

The free public session starts from 4:00pm on Monday 25 November at the Crossing Theatre in Narrabri.