Growing Disconnect: The Ag Industry Training Gap
15 August 2023
Hinchinbrook MP and Katter’s Australian Party (KAP) Deputy Leader, Nick Dametto, used his time during Budget Estimates to question the Minister for Training and Skills Development, the Hon. Di Farmer, about the Government’s plans to bolster the agricultural industry’s skilled workforce capability.
The Hinchinbrook MP’s concerns arose after receiving the Minister’s response to a Question on Notice earlier this year that revealed in the last five years, only 250 TAFE students statewide had completed a Certificate III in Agriculture and only six of those students completed the course in North Queensland.
“When I quizzed the Minister about what plans were in place for TAFE Queensland to attract more people into the agricultural sector, I wasn’t very inspired by the departmental response,” Mr Dametto said.
“Currently the big plan put in place by the Government is to fund the Gateway to Industry Schools Program (GISP) in Queensland high schools. The program offers no incentive for students to show an interest in agriculture, it’s just something they might elect to do if their school happens to participate in the program.
“On top of that, we’re being told by industry that although agricultural courses exist in some schools, there is no specialty training available for those who teach it. To have teachers lacking industry experience or specialist knowledge, I question how students are going to get the most out of school based agricultural courses or programs.
“During the Estimates Hearing we heard how millions of dollars is being poured into TAFE Queensland’s ‘centres of excellence’, as well as various other funds and strategies, all intended to deliver a skilled workforce for the Ag industry.
“This all sounds very impressive, but for the industries sake I hope Labor isn’t just trying to dazzle us with dollars instead of brilliance. TAFE Queensland must start to increase their output if we are to see a return on this investment.
“I don’t know how much horse riding or cane planting gets done in these flash news learning centres, but I suspect it isn’t much. They’ve completely missed the mark when it comes to simple, old school farm skills that are essential if anyone is going to play a “dirt under the fingernails” role in Ag.
“This Government can’t deny that they have dropped the ball on Ag training, one person in North Queensland per year obtaining a certificate III in Agriculture is an embarrassment. Hopefully, this balls up will be the wake-up call necessary to snap this Government and TAFE Queensland into gear.
“Industry experts are saying, ‘what did the State Labor Government expect after formalising their decision to close Queensland’s Agricultural Training Colleges without doing anything meaningful to fill the void’.
“I’m not here to point out the short falls of government without also putting forward a commitment to work with industry and government to come up with solutions to deliver locally facilitated skills-based training, but we need to start working the ground on this one soon if we have any chance of cropping the next Ag workforce of the future.”