Training to alleviate shortage

30 Jul, 2003 10:00 PM

SKILLS Australia is set to tackle the looming labour crisis in rural areas.

Education and training advisor Fred Chambers said the agriculture industry would not have access to enough workers to meet its potential production capacity within five years if this issue was not tackled immediately.

He said the major factors to the crisis were the ageing workforce, population drift to cities and fewer young people entering the workforce.

In the past the seasonal workforce had been backpackers and New Zealanders.

"But this workforce is drying up rapidly," Mr Chambers said.

"The pay conditions in NZ industries are now similar to here and the dollar rate differential is no longer a big incentive.

"Some WA employers are paying the air fare for NZ workers and their working dogs to come here."

But it's not all gloom and doom, with Mr Chambers saying there was a hidden workforce that could be tapped to help face the crisis.

He said this workforce was made up of young city people and semi-retired men who lacked knowledge about the opportunities that existed in the bush and confidence in their own abilities to do the work.

"Many of them have the skills and aptitude the industry needs but they just don't know it," Mr Chambers said.

He said an innovative program run by the Cunderdin Agricultural College was providing a vital link into agriculture for these people.

The college had run a tractor driving for seeding course this year and would run a harvester training course in September.

All the participants received job offers after they finished the course.

Another method was to offer apprenticeships.

"Trainees can gain a TAFE certificate in agriculture that could be built on for further qualifications like a diploma in agriculture or a degree in agribusiness," Mr Chambers said.

"The agriculture industry competes on world markets, it cannot be hampered by insufficient skilled labour and still compete."


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