TONIGHT Dr Brian Heim follows his win as Australia’s top agriculture teacher for 2008 by taking the title of ‘Australia’s Trade and Skills Teacher of the Year’ – having held out 14 finalists from eight industry categories – under the Institute for Trade Skills Excellence (ITSE) Australian Training Awards, presented during a gala ceremony at the Darwin Convention Centre. The Awards presentation was made by Deputy Prime Minister The Hon Julia Gillard MP, in the presence of the National Farmers’ Federation’s (NFF’s) Duncan Fraser, Chair of the Rural Industry Reference Group of the ITSE. Mr Fraser says the Award, which pits winners from eight industry categories against each other – including Automotive; Manufacturing; Building and Construction; Metals and Engineering; Electrical; Mineral Resources; Hospitality, Tourism and Services; and Rural and Farming – is important recognition for agriculture teachers. “We know the vital and growing role skills-based education and training plays in modern farming’s ability to be competitive and sustainable,” he said. “The farm sector is screaming out for not only more employees, but a higher skilled and more qualified workforce than at any time in our history. “Our labour force analysis shows that as the farm sector emerges from drought, we’ll need around 100,000 new jobs filled – alarmingly, of that number, nearly 80,000 will need to be skilled and qualified. So we need to be training more young people today, not down the track. “The NFF, by supporting the development of these Awards and committing to their success over the long-haul, wants to recognise and encourage skills-based education and training – especially as it pertains to agriculture. We know by stimulating and encouraging teachers in the stellar work they do, it will rub off on their students… and the more we can attract into our sector, the better. “Of course, such a plan has widespread benefits, not just for farming specifically. Attracting young people into relevant agricultural skills areas has a flow-on effect for the health and vitality of rural businesses and local communities. It’s important to continually foster that development.” Dr Heim, who is the Manager of Primary Industry at the Charles Darwin University (NT), won the Agriculture Trade and Skills Teacher of the Year in November, taking a prize of $5,000. Tonight, in addition to his new title, he takes home a further $5,000. “We congratulate Dr Heim for being recognised in leading a team of teaching professionals and providing hands-on involvement by skilling cattle producers in testing animals for pregnancy prior to live export,” Mr Fraser said. “It’s an important function to safeguard the viability of the sector.” This year is the second year the NFF is supporting the Awards, in conjunction with the ITSE, to promote the importance of trades and skills-based learning. [ENDS] Visit http://www.skillsone.com.au[Skills One] for more information on the Trades and Skills Teacher of the Year Awards. A photo of Dr Heim (left in the photo) accepting his Agricultural Teacher of the Year Award from ITSE Chair John Keniry is available below.