MODERN Australian farming is facing an unprecedented demand for skilled labour. Education, training and trade skill development is vital as labour and skills shortages continue to constrain our future farm capacity. “As major regional employers – over 330 000 direct on-farm jobs – farming must be able to attract, train and retain workers to deliver improved long-term benefits to the regional communities that rely on farm business,” National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) President David Crombie said. “Today’s commitment of an additional 100 Australian Technical Colleges (ATCs) by the Coalition is a positive and practical response to addressing labour and skill shortages facing many Australian businesses – including farms. “The NFF is particularly pleased that our call for agricultural and horticultural apprentices to be included in the system was acknowledged in today’s announcement. “Previously, ATCs were limited in offering apprentices to the five traditional trade areas – which did not include agriculture. “As a major employer in regional and rural Australia, modern farms require a higher skilled workforce than in the past. The new technologies employed on-farm provide employees with the opportunity to develop and hone their skills, and adapt them to new farm systems. “Also encouraging is the move to provide a working structure for ATC Boards to respond to the skill needs of industry in their local areas. “The majority of ATCs are currently situated in regional areas, therefore it is vital that as a major employer in rural and regional Australia, agriculture will have the opportunity to better support apprentices who are considering a career in farming. “The sustainability of regional communities and businesses – including farms – are heavily reliant on the ability to provide interesting and rewarding employment opportunities. “The NFF now encourages colleges and schools to partner with farmers in the future when considering an ATC application. “The NFF is committed to ensuring rural and regional Australia is central to initiatives and incentives for Australian apprentices.” [ENDS] The NFF’s http://www.nff.org.au/read/2442828448.html[2007 Federal Election Policy Platform] is available here.