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TAFE NSW 'townies' to help plug local skills gap: NSW Farmers'


TAFE NSW 'townies' to help plug local skills gap: NSW Farmers'

RIGHT AT HOME: TAFE NSW Nowra agriculture trainee Ruby Stephens is one of a growing band of “townies” helping fill the local ag skills gap.


15 May 2023

The state’s peak farming body has welcomed an increase in the number of “townies” studying agriculture at TAFE NSW Primary Industries Centre, 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 Nowra Certificate III in Agriculture student Ruby Stephens, 16, is one of the growing band of “townies” pursuing a career in ag. Raised in St George’s Basin, Ms Stephens fell in love with dairy cows as a teenager and is now working as a trainee farmhand at Berry’s Waljasper Hoslteins.

“I’ve always loved animals and I wanted to be a vet growing up,” Ms Stephens said.

“Dairy farming is a great industry and I’d like to own my own dairy farm one day.

“TAFE NSW has really given me the hands-on skills I need and my teacher is an actual working farmer, so I’m learning from the best.”


Media contact: Dan Johns, TAFE NSW Communications Specialist, mobile 0477 722 428