FARMING FUTURE: TAFE NSW Primary Industries Centre graduate Courtney Gray is one of a growing number of ‘townies’ carving a path in the industry.
The state’s peak farming body has welcomed an increase in the number of “townies” studying agriculture at TAFE NSW Primary Industries Centre in North Wagga, saying it will help the industry confront its current skills gap.
As the local agriculture industry booms amid a “perfect storm” of strong commodity prices and seasonal conditions, it faces a growing labour shortage to keep pace with demand.
NSW Farmers workplace relations chair Chris Stillard said the new data showing more students from non-farming backgrounds were studying agriculture was a positive for the industry.
“Modern agriculture is a really diverse industry and we don’t just have tractor drivers and stockhands any more, we’ve got mechanics and drone pilots and network engineers as well,” Mr Stillard said.
“TAFE NSW will play an important role in helping the industry have a skilled pipeline of workers into the future.
“A growing global population means a growing need for food, and agriculture is where that food comes from, so you can be outstanding in any field while you’re out standing in a field.”
Mr Stillard’s comments echo similar sentiments earlier this year from Australia’s peak farming group, National Farmers’ Federation (NFF), which said TAFE NSW would play a critical role in ensuring the industry had the workforce to meet future demand, with the NFF Roadmap outlining its vision to grow the workforce by 25 per cent over the next decade.
TAFE NSW Team Leader of Agribusiness Jenny O’Donnell said she had noticed a marked increase in students from a non-farming background studying agriculture in recent years.
“There used to be a perception that only those from farming backgrounds entered the agriculture industry but that has well and truly changed,” Ms O’Donnell said.
“The local ag industry is booming and with that growth comes strong demand for skilled workers.
“TAFE NSW is proud to be training the agricultural leaders of tomorrow and ensuring they have the practical skills and experience to help the industry thrive.”
TAFE NSW Primary Industries Centre Certificate IV in Agriculture graduate Courtney Gray, 28, is one of a growing band of “townies” considering a career in ag. Raised in a suburban Newcastle home, Ms Gray visited a former partner’s family cattle farm as a teenager and fell in love with the lifestyle and the land.
After completing a Certificate IV in Agriculture at TAFE NSW Primary Industries Centre in 2022, she secured work at Riverina Fresh and at dairy farms in Northern Victoria, but has now dipped out of the industry as she cares for her newborn son, Dustyn.
She hopes to eventually own her own cattle farm and has dreams of running a robotic dairy.
“I’ve worked as a travel agent and optical dispenser but my real passion is farming,” Ms Gray said.
“The teachers at TAFE NSW were incredible: they learn about your story, where you came from and where you want to go, and give you the skills and experience to get there.”
Ms Gray’s dream of owning her own property may not yet be realised, but it hasn’t stopped her gathering a menagerie of animals – including sheep – on her half-acre residential block.
She intends to return to TAFE NSW when her son is older to study the Diploma of Agriculture.
Media contact: Dan Johns, TAFE NSW Communications Specialist, mobile 0477 722 428