Job advertisements in agriculture and related businesses doubled in WA in the first three months of this year, reaching a level not seen since the boom period of late 2007, early 2008.
For many people looking for work, this will be good news, but according to Curtin University of Technology’s Head of Agribusiness and Wine Sciences, Dr Christine Storer, it could be a double edged sword.
“This is a mixed blessing as it means there will be good employment prospects for our agriculture and agribusiness graduates who are looking for jobs,” she said.
“However, we could be heading back to the boom period where many employers found it difficult to recruit good people.
“Many businesses have been working hard to find appropriately qualified staff, but they are hard to find.
“Curtin and other tertiary providers have been trying to supply enough graduates to meet industry needs over the last few years, but not enough students are enrolling into the required degrees.
“We need more students to enrol in agriculture and agribusiness courses so demand can be met.
“Many young people do not understand the wide range of different jobs available in agribusiness.
“It is much broader than just running farms and there are related jobs in supplying finance, machinery, fertiliser and seed, as well as exporting and distributing food internationally.”
Dr Storer explained that there has been a shortage of graduates right across Australia and this poses problems for agribusinesses.
“Reports indicate that in 2008 only 800 graduates were available to fill 2,000 positions in the agriculture industry,” she said
“According to research conducted with over 400 agribusinesses in early 2008, nearly all agribusiness sectors experienced increasing problems finding labour, with rural mechanics being the harderst hit.
“Areas of shortage included rural mechanics, rural transport, sheep, wool, grains and farm input supply businesses.
Curtin is engaged in a number of initiatives to attract more students and help fill industry demand.
“The University has consistently sought to provide degrees that produce work ready graduates,” Dr Storer said.
“For the first time in 2010, Curtin will be offering a Bachelor of Commerce majoring in Agribusiness, and a Bachelor of Science degree with a major in Agriculture at the Bentley campus.
“Also in 2010 the renewed Bachelor of Agribusiness degree offered at the Muresk campus in Northam will have an agriculture stream and an equine stream.
“This will provide Curtin graduates with an edge over the competition when they are looking for work and will also provide the industry with the workers they need.”
Curtin is also looking to set up sponsorships with the agricultural industry to make an agribusiness degree more affordable for a greater number of students.
“One way Curtin can assist employers to source better recruits is to work with industry in setting up sponsorships to attract more students into agriculture and agribusiness courses,” Dr Storer said.
“The sponsorships can be established so that the students work with industry during university breaks on projects related to their studies.
“This provides business with access to new workers and an ability to assess future graduates.”
More information on these degrees and more can be found at Curtin’s Open Day at the Muresk Campus in Northam held on 13 September from 10am to 2:30pm.
CRICOS provider code: 00301J