An interesting discussion has been taking place amongst Future Farmers Network (FFN) members on the public perception of agriculture and the future security of the industry.
One FFN member who has done a lot of research into the next generation in agriculture describes that many students’ perception of agriculture as an industry is generally positive; however, their perception of an actual career in agriculture is relatively limited.
It seems this is a common theme. At the 2001 National Youth Roundtable it was recorded that the majority of people had a positive notion towards rural life with perceptions primarily focussing on the romance of the country and what a lovely lifestyle it would be.
Yet when people started to think about working in the agricultural industry, they were very negative towards the idea and didn’t see it as a viable long-term career option. Overall, it appears from the FFN discussion that this thought process has not changed in the last nine years.
One of the main points arising from this discussion is the need to increase the awareness of jobs in agriculture and the types of agricultural opportunities available to those in urban areas.
It has been suggested that perhaps changing the name of ‘agriculture’ to ‘agribusiness’ would further enhance the appeal of a career in agriculture without the ‘dirt’ and ‘roughing it’ connotations.
Although it has also been suggested that we should look at drawing on what we actually do in agriculture and use that as the name of the industry. For example, agriculture would become the ‘food sector’ as that is what we really produce at the end of the day or a ‘green’ campaign summarising the way that Australians of today are thinking about ‘green businesses’ or having a ‘green way of life’. It was suggested that perhaps we should be promoting green jobs in agriculture to generate a positive career option for youth to consider.
It is evident through this ongoing FFN discussion that careers in agriculture need to be marketed appropriately and effectively.
It was suggested that the first step is to promote agriculture as a favourable career choice through school career advisers and counsellors.
It was mentioned that a map is currently being developed showcasing occupations and careers associated with the agricultural industry and outlining the path towards obtaining the qualifications required for these types of careers. This map could be used as a key tool in educating and promoting careers in agriculture to school career advisers and counsellors.
It is particularly evident from this discussion through FFN that educating the youth of today on all the career options available in agriculture is the best way of raising the profile of the industry.
We need to change the perception and profile of agriculture from ‘dirty labouring work’ to that of professional, exciting and rewarding opportunities including roles in marketing, genetics, human resources, natural resources, and more, which seem to be much more attractive to our youth.
If we can’t change mindsets towards careers in agriculture we will be losing out as an industry. One thing that can be agreed is that the future of agriculture is the youth of today.