The Business/Higher Education Roundtable commissioned the Allen Consulting Group to conduct a scoping study that reviews the effectiveness of current interventions designed to increase the number of people with higher education qualifications in the agricultural workforce.
Although employment levels in on-farm agriculture have not been growing, there is a shortage of skilled labour across the agriculture sector, particularly when agribusiness is taken into account. Based on current projections, this problem is expected to get worse.
Although focussed on occupations requiring VET (vocational education and training) qualifications, AgriFood Skills Australia (ASA) (2011) has identified that new and emerging skills for agriculture and horticulture will occur in a number of areas spanning many types of agricultural production.
There are a number of factors contributing to skill shortages in agriculture, related to both the supply of and demand for skills. These include: labour competition from other industries, poor promotion of the industry, an ageing population and declining rural population.
The barriers to meeting industry need for labour and skills include: low levels of industry involvement in education and training, poor promotion of agricultural pathways and the limited capacity of the current education and training system to deliver innovative training solutions (Industries Development Committee Workforce 2009).
The age profile of the workforce is a structural factor that is particularly significant. It is potentially the most serious and intractable cause of skill shortages in agriculture. The on-farm agriculture sector is forecast to lose at least 30 per cent of its workforce over the next ten years, mainly due to ageing.