MITCHELL’S Transport owner John Mitchell is closing the gap between agricultural students and career opportunities in the beef sector.
The transport operator and other major players in the beef industry sponsored WA agricultural students to attend a spring cattle handling school in Waroona last week.
“We have engaged with the high end of town and they have been able to support us and give sponsorship to the students to come along to learn these techniques,” Mr Mitchell said.
“We have also challenged students to get them to apply for a scholarship to pay for their tuition.”
The Low Stress Stock Handling School had been held in WA for more than 10 years and was changed this year to lure more agricultural students into the industry.
“I noticed that some students don’t think they have what it takes,” he said.
“Some students also don’t know what opportunities there are or have the courage to put themselves out there.”
Mr Mitchell said there was a missing link between students and achieving their career goals.
Students that applied for the scholarship for the two-day theory and practical cattle handling course were asked to provide a short video on why they wanted to do the course and provide their resumes.
Mr Mitchell said for the first year, students were able to meet the sponsors and discuss future opportunities within the sector.
“The aim was to get students to start thinking about their career paths a bit earlier,” he said.
“We provided a portfolio of their CVs and presented them to each of our sponsors.
“We are trying to create a connection in the students minds on where they are going and what they have to do to get there, as well as who they have to talk to, in order to get there.
“It might take a student, especially a Year 10 student, a long time to get to talk to a leader of a business, and they probably hadn’t thought of it at school, but we have been able to bridge that gap.”
Mr Mitchell said it wasn’t just in agriculture that he was noticing school students underselling their ability and how far they could go.
“Some are moderate in their thinking,” he said.
“What we are trying to do, is get them to think about their careers a lot deeper and set their goals a lot higher.”
Mr Mitchell said for the first time, he saw students being very engaged with the sponsors.
“As a 15 or 16-year-old, to make that industry connection is a good thing,” he said.
“I have seen students and sponsors here in the past for the school, and that’s where the idea sparked from – what a great way to close that gap.”
Sponsors included Harvey Beef, Western Meat Packers, Landmark, Elders, Livestock Shipping Services, Primaries of WA, Wellard Rural Exports, Alcoa Farmlands and Mitchells Transport.
Alcoa Farmlands manager Vaughan Byrd watched the students put their practical skills to the test, working as a team to move cattle through gates.
He said the school was a great opportunity for students and Alcoa was proud to be part of it.
“Kids are our future that’s why these courses are so important,” he said.
“Students came up and spoke to us after we were presented with their CVs, they were asking all the right questions and were very enthusiastic.
“So it’s a great opportunity for them and that’s why we support this course each year.”
Mr Mitchell hoped to run another course early in 2017 using the scholarship approach.
“We will focus more on university students in March or April,” he said.
“Then have another one in spring for the agricultural college students and have it open to the public as well.”
Mr Mitchell said students who attended the school learnt “game changing” skills.
“It allowed them to handle cattle in a way that can develop an understanding between the handler and the animal,” he said.
“With the Low Stress Stock Handling School you are able to relate to that animal like never before and understand what it is thinking and what you need to do to make it move in a relaxed manner.
“Our school has a range of diverse participants from first time cattle handlers to feedlot head stockmen, we have also had a surgeon with 40 breeders come along and engage in the school.”
Course trainer Grahame Rees said the school was designed to teach people advanced stock handling methods.
He said the school had evolved, giving students the opportunity to see stock handling as an enjoyable job and to get great results.
“Kids don’t believe in themselves as much as they used to,” Mr Rees said.
“This gives them confidence.
“What John and I are trying to do with the companies and organisations, is to build up the culture around the sector.”
Mr Rees said it had become a leading course in WA.
“It is showing people from all areas of the industry that with low stress stock handling methods they can get more profitability for their animals, and do it faster, quicker and easier,” Mr Rees said.
More than 3000 students have attended the course.
Mr Rees said he had seen some changes in the industry.
While the sector was getting more advanced with technology and treating symptoms, he believed in getting back to basics.
“We look at the cause and teaching people skills where they can work animals anywhere,’’ he said.
“People these days spend a lot of money on facilities to work animals, I want to teach people basic skills, so that they are able to achieve a result safely.”
Mr Rees said it was always good to see people who had little or no experience with livestock come away confident in their skills.
“Some very experienced people also come here and after the two days they still come away learning something,” he said.
“It is about going back to basics, having the right attitude and enjoying the industry.”