New national education program seeks to attract students to the agriculture sector

If you didn’t grow up on the land, you might never have considered a career in agriculture.

Traditionally, farming has been considered an intergenerational family business, but now ‘town’ kids are being exposed to the idea of a life on the land.

Fourteen-year-old Remy Vella dreamt of being a pro mountain biker.

But a cattle showing program run by her school has sparked a new passion.

“Before I started agriculture and showing [cattle] I didn’t really have any idea of what it was,” she said.

“I am thinking of a career in doing it, and [I like] the farming and cattle and cane lifestyle.

“It’s a really big part [of my life]. I’ve just put all my mind to it.

“Mountain biking is second at the moment.”

Matching kids to careers
A new national initiative could see more students such as Remy pursuing a career in the primary industries.

The Excited 4 Careers in Agriculture program targets students from kindergarten to grade 10, matching them with existing careers in primary industries based on their interests and personality.

Aaron Bickford from Mackay North State high school isn’t from a family of farmers.

Before taking part in the program he was interested in a career in mechanics and planned to pursue a trade.

“I didn’t really have much to do with agriculture,” he said.

Now he is keen to explore his options in Mackay’s sugar industry.

“I never really even thought about the mills and what opportunities they might have for me,” he said.

“Even just thinking about the diesel fitting and all the trade opportunities they have there, that would definitely get me more involved in agriculture.

“I guess I’ll have to re-evaluate.”

While Mackay North State High School student Tamlyn Nell is not currently looking at a career in sugar, she now knows which area would suit her best.

“The research and statistics, finding out which cane is best for farmers and production, that would definitely be interesting for me,” she said.

How the program works
The joint initiative is run by CQ University and a range of partners across industries such as sugar, prawns, beef, cotton, dairy and wine.

CQ University agri-tech education and extension team research officer Nikki Kelly works directly with the students.

She said the personality matching approach was a first.

“This is a really different way to look at guiding students into particular careers based on their personality and their interests,” she said.

“It uses the RAISEC model (an assessment of interests to inform vocational choice) which looks at surveying students and understanding how their personality and their interests tailor them to specific jobs within agriculture.”

The model requires students to answer questions and gives them a score across six key areas that are realistic, artistic, investigative, social, enterprising and conventional.

“So whichever they score highest in is the ones that are more likely to suit them,” Ms Kelly said.

“We’ve got jobs within agriculture that match each of those six areas, and we present some of those to the classes for them to engage with.”

“We know that students that are coming out of agricultural degrees have a choice of four jobs for every one student that’s graduating and there’s high salary opportunities for those because of the low amount of graduates,” she said.

“It’s not just for kids who have come from agricultural and farming backgrounds, there are jobs for everyone.”