PARTICIPANTS of a broadacre harvest course being undertaken at the Muresk Institute this week are expected to have no trouble finding jobs this season, as a shortage of skilled and unskilled workers looms over the agricultural sector.
Taking place over five days, the Broadacre Harvest Operations Skill Set is part of the State government's free job ready skill sets offered to eligible youth, concession students and displaced workers.
Designed to help address a shortage of skilled and unskilled workers in the sector, course participants are taught how to safely operate a range of machinery used for harvest including tractors, headers, augers and chaser bins.
Ag Implements loaned a John Deere S770 combine harvester to add to the delivery of the new skillset.
Muresk Institute general manager Prue Jenkins said after consultation with industry, it was decided an employment day would complement the conclusion of the inaugural course.
Scheduled to take place today, Thursday, September 17, the employment day has been designed to link students with employment opportunities.
"The event provides an opportunity for employers to see prospective employees in action on the machinery and meet them face to face," Ms Jenkins said.
"Employers can also talk to the lecturers and discuss student ability and competence."
Students from the Diploma Agriculture and Associate Degree in Agriculture will also be in attendance.
Ms Jenkins said industry collaboration had been key to Muresk operations and would continue to be a feature as the Specialist Centre for Agricultural Mechanisation is established.
"Muresk is responsive to industry to ensure it provides 'just in time' training to meet industry demand," she said.
"Industry relationships are mutually beneficial because students get relevant training on industry-standard equipment and industry builds relationships with the next generation of farmers.
"Equipment has already been offered to Muresk through the Industry Reference Group."
Agricultural Region MLC Darren West will address the students who will have the opportunity to network and demonstrate their newly-acquired skills.
Studium and Rural Enterprises, along with a range of individual employers will be in attendance.
Speaking to Farm Weekly, Rural Enterprises managing director Stuart Willis said the company had already placed one participant of the course with work.
He said in a typical year two thirds of the company's candidates were placed come from New Zealand and internationally.
"I have farmers calling us everyday concerned and I'm concerned as well as I don't have many skilled workers coming through at all and when I do have one I have 20 or 30 jobs that could be suitable for that one person," Mr Willis said.
"At the moment I have 150 jobs on the board and we're facing a real struggle to fill those spots."
With some farmers willing to consider less experienced workers for this season's harvest, Mr Willis said it was vital that those workers arrived on farms as soon as possible so they could get trained up in time for harvest.
"They need to get used to operating the machines so any extra training time they have will give farmers more confidence in their workers abilities," he said.
"However farmers can't have a full team of inexperienced people as there is a health and safety aspect to it, the risk of damaging machines and not harvesting the crop as efficiently and as effectively as possible."
Studium founder and chief officer Stuart Scott said the employment day was a valuable opportunity for farmers and prospective employers to chat with students and ascertain their willingness to travel and work over the harvest period.
"This is an opportunity for farmers to see candidates actually doing and performing the task," Mr Scott said.
"I would be surprised if every student wasn't employed at the end of it because they are all being trained in a sector that is crying out for workers."
Launched in February, the Studium platform has been used to promote the Muresk Institute's courses to its database which has a subscription list of more than 12,000 students and 200 employers.
"The beauty of our platform is we are able to target people that have never thought of doing this type of training before," Mr Scott said.
"We are nudging 1700 connections - which refers to an employer reaching out to a candidate and seeking a linkage with them."
Course participant Hamish Nikulinsky, 19, who is based in Perth and heard about training through word of mouth, said he already had a job lined up in Esperance on a grain and sheep farm for harvest.
"My mate is working on the farm and told me they were looking for people but said I'd need a bit of experience, so I enrolled in the course," Mr Nikulinsky said.
With no background in agriculture, he said after taking two gap years he would be heading to university next year, but not to study agriculture.
"I'm just doing this course to get some work, but I don't plan on agriculture being my long-term career," he said.
Another Broadacre Harvest Operations Skillset will run from October 5-9 with some places still available.
Muresk will also be running a number of other short courses to support skills shortages in agriculture including the Work in Agriculture course scheduled for October 5 -9 and October 12-16.