A new unit that has been successful in connecting students with networks and jobs in WA's livestock industry has the potential to become a permanent fixture at one of the State's major universities, with Murdoch confirming its plans to run the unit again in 2024.
Designed for second and third-year agricultural science students, the Livestock Career Readiness Unit, introduced in the second semester of this year, incorporates activities designed to increase students' awareness of job opportunities available within the sector, as well as provide some of the skills required for these roles.
Providing the students with an opportunity to network with people already working in the sector, including their potential future employers, the unit's facilitator Lea Labeur said a popular feature was a week-long Australian Wool Innovation (AWI) industry tour.
"Pre-COVID, Murdoch University ran an industry tour as part of another unit, but the tour hadn't run again since then, until now," Dr Labeur said.
Some of the locations visited as part of the industry tour included Hillcroft Farms, an intensive piggery which also has UltraWhite sheep in Popanyinning, Merino ram breeder and feedlot Moojepin Merinos, Katanning, Irongate Waygu, Albany, Merinotech WA, Kojonup, Jenkins Dairy, Denmark and Caluka Farms at Narrikup, where students learnt about pasture improvement and intensive lambing systems.
Dr Labeur said the industry tour was useful for the group's city-based students who hadn't previously been exposed to the animal science industries.
She said 100 per cent of the students reported they would recommend the unit to their fellow students and the course had resulted in one student being offered employment with a key funding body in animal science.
With AWI and Murdoch jointly funding the unit, the industry tour wrapped up with a dinner sponsored by AWI.
Teaching staff member Bronwyn Clarke said AWI's support had been invaluable for developing the unit and running the industry tour.
"However, their support is more than financial - the fact the industry funding body is supporting the unit has been recognised by farmers and other industry professionals," Dr Clarke said
Unit co-ordinator professor Andrew Thompson said another highlight for students had been the AG4U module which connects its participants to mentors in the industry and is run by consultant Erin Gorter.
"Erin also supported the students through workshops designed to improve student skills in communication, networking and confidence to enter the industry," professor Thompson said.
A young industry panel including representatives from West Midlands Grower Group, agricultural research group Kalyx and Australian Meat Processor Corporation also answered the students' questions about their experiences entering into the agricultural workforce and provided tricks and tips on how to gain employment after they graduate.
"Students also visited AWTA (Australian Wool Testing Authority) and AWH (Australian Wool Handling), as well as Holly Ludeman from The Livestock Collective and Peel Feedlot," professor Thompson said.
With unit participants capped to 20, professor Thompson said as a result of the positive feedback received, AWI had committed to supporting the course when it runs again in semester two of 2024.
Having paid a visit to the students last month, WA Agriculture and Food Minister Jackie Jarvis said it was fantastic to see so many women embarking on careers in the livestock industry.
"Interestingly too, a lot of the students completing the course don't come from farming backgrounds," Ms Jarvis said.
"Job opportunities in the sector are equally diverse, including in land management, animal welfare, biosecurity, supply chain management as well as trade management in an office."
Ms Jarvis said the students were the future of WA's livestock industry, adding the sector was an important contributor to the State's economy.
"They have the opportunity to progress the industry and tackle the big issues like climate change and animal welfare while increasing productivity, industry resilience and food security," Ms Jarvis said.
"We want to continue to encourage bright, enthusiastic and curious minds into the industry."
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