The changing landscape of Australian agriculture is creating a raft of opportunities across the sector, according to NAB’s General Manager of Agribusiness, Khan Horne.
Following the conclusion of the Marcus Oldham Rural Leadership Program in Geelong, Mr Horne said a number of factors are colliding to create a boom for agricultural careers. “We’ve seen strong growth in corporate agriculture, increasing by around 40 per cent in the five years to 2011,” said Mr Horne.
“And for the first time in years, agricultural student enrolments are up, and quite significantly. According to the Australian Council of Deans of Agriculture, enrolments have increased across the board by around 15 per cent.
“Agriculture in Australia has an exciting future. In the coming decades food production will need to increase by an estimated 70 per cent to feed the growing global population, according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations.
“This challenge will need to be met by innovative and educated minds, and I’m encouraged by the shift we’re starting to see and the quality of the leadership being shown across the industry.”
Larger operations require a range of employees to support the business – from farm managers, agronomists and veterinarians to the full range of business functions including business managers, human resources, finance and communications. This in turn will result in an even greater need for agricultural graduates and those with experience in the sector, as well as for graduates who want to work in related areas.
“What’s interesting and quite unique about the agriculture sector is the level of passion it inspires in those involved,” Mr Horne said.
“There’s something innately appealing about working in an industry that feeds and clothes Australians and millions of people around the world. And for many the professionalism of running a farm enterprise is only improved by the lifestyle factors and benefits of living in a regional or rural location.
“For those who aspire to running a farm business and businesses along the value chain, there are significant barriers to entry. The capital required to take on a property can be prohibitive, especially if you’re going out on your own or starting out in the industry.
“The corporate sector offers the experience and lifestyle, without the high cost of entry or financial risk.”
Today approximately 29 per cent of farm managers are women. Further training and tertiary qualifications amongst farmers have increased significantly since the mid-1980s. In 1986, one in ten farmers had some form of further education. At the most recent Census in 2011, this had jumped to one in three.
Mr Horne said that farmers across the board are recognising the need to increase their skills, and are relying more on consultants and other specialists in all areas of their business. “These factors place the industry in a strong position to drive future growth and make inroads with the severe shortage of skilled staff.
“It’s well established that there are not enough graduates to fill the available jobs in agriculture. The latest findings show that there are now five jobs to each graduate.
“Given the skills shortage, the average starting wage for an agricultural graduate is more than that of a veterinarian. It’s certainly appealing to school students deciding on a career path and to those already working but who are interested in a career change.”
2013 marks the 20th year NAB Agribusiness has sponsored the Marcus Oldham Rural Leadership Program, which to date has produced more than 700 graduates.