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TAFE NSW ‘townies’ to help meet local ag emerging skills need

TAFE NSW Kurri Kurri

TAFE NSW ‘townies’ to help meet local ag emerging skills need

The state’s peak farming body has welcomed an increase in the number of “townies” studying agriculture at TAFE NSW Kurri Kurri, saying it will help the industry confront its current emerging skills need.

As the local agriculture industry booms amid 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 anymore, we’ve got mechanics and drone pilots and network engineers as well,” Mr Stillard said.

“TAFE NSW plays an important role in helping deliver the industry 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 Kurri Kurri Head Teacher of Agriculture, Horticulture, Conservation and Land Management, Stuart Murphy, said many of his students came from non-farming backgrounds.

“There used to be a perception that only those from farming backgrounds entered the agriculture industry but that has well and truly changed,” Mr Murphy said. “During the pandemic, we saw a strong increase in our region of people coming from the big cities seeking a sea- or tree-change, and many learners are simply seeking a career on the land instead of in an office.

“With this growth comes strong demand for skilled workers, and TAFE NSW is proud to be training our future agricultural leaders, ensuring they have the practical skills and experience to help the industry thrive.”

Kurri Kurri Diploma of Viticulture student Christ Hunt, 49, started working in the wine industry after serving in the Defence force from the age of 16. 

“I’ve been working in the Hunter Valley wine industry for a few years now and this has given me many of the practical skills, but I didn’t have formal qualifications to take my career to the next level,” he said.

“TAFE NSW is helping me learn the business side of things, like workplace health and safety, biosecurity, recruitment of staff and contractors – I had some exposure to these things, but my Diploma has shown me that it’s about so much more than just working in the vineyard.

“I’m also getting hands-on experience with the skills I’m most passionate about like field operations and making wine in the cellar alongside a winemaker.

“This training has led to a broader scope of work and higher responsibility in my current job, and my Diploma qualifications will allow me to start my own viticultural consulting business. TAFE NSW is really allowing me to chase my dream job,” Mr Hunt said.

Media contact: Emily Graham, TAFE NSW Communications Specialist,, 02 7921 3756.