HELPING university students transition into the agriculture industry has been on Erin Gorter's mind for a while, but this year she made it happen for 16 Western Australian students.
"COVID-19 and the increased use of virtual platforms made me realise I could bring students and leading industry figures together virtually, so there was really no reason to not just get on and do this," Ms Gorter said.
She has developed the Ag4U Career Pipeline Program which held its first online program during semester two, for students in their final year of an agriculture-related course.
Those successful in being selected for the program came from Curtin University, The University of WA and Murdoch University, which all have an agriculture or animal health and science pathway.
"The purpose of the program is to help the selected students build their skills and confidence as they transition from university into the primary industry sector," Ms Gorter said.
"It was designed to help students in their final year at university have a good understanding of what opportunities there are in the industry and give them skills to embrace them - to help them with contacts and confidence, whether they have an ag background or not."
Ms Gorter said it would also encourage and stimulate the ag industry to embrace the students.
"These students have got to their final year studying an ag-related degree, so I want to make sure we make room for them in our industries and pull them into a career in ag, not leave it to chance or have another industry snap them up."
The program featured five online sessions, no longer than 90 minutes each.
In the Zoom sessions the students heard from industry experts and leaders about emotional intelligence, networking skills, industry insights, personal branding and they had the chance to ask questions from industry panels.
The final session gave students the opportunity to have a mentor who could speak to them individually in their own time about their career path and what the job entailed, as well as answer the student's questions.
"Universities do a fantastic job teaching students, particularly theory," Ms Gorter said.
"I saw a gap once they neared graduation and I just wanted to help these brilliant and enthusiastic minds into their first job in WA.
"Plus I wanted to rally the industry to encourage and welcome these new graduates into the best industry in the State and reach out to pull them through from uni.
"I've been inspired by their excitement and development throughout the program - they asked insightful, intuitive questions of the panel members.
"There's a whole pool of students who may be lacking confidence in themselves to share their capabilities.
"Once they have the skills and confidence though, there has been no stopping them.
"I have had numerous pieces of feedback from mentors and industry professionals who have interacted with them and they have been blown away by how they have conducted themselves once given encouragement and confidence."
Ms Gorter viewed the Ag4U Career Pipeline Program as a "leg up not a hand out".
"The students need to make their own way and create opportunities, so this program just gives them an edge, some skills to show others how valuable they each are and to help them believe in themselves."
Ms Gorter self-funds the career pipeline program.
"The WA ag industry has been good to me and I am keen to make sure plenty of people get the privilege of working in the primary industries in WA for years to come,'' she said.
"I plan to have this program available for students for as long as it's needed."
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