Changes to Australia’s vocational training regime are good news for agriculture’s future workforce needs, NFF CEO Tony Mahar says.
“The NFF’s 2030 Roadmap includes a goal to double the number of tertiary and vocational agriculture graduates by 2030.
“The Government’s streamlining and consolidation of the vocational, education and training (VET) system via a new Industry Cluster model advances this goal.”
Mr Mahar said a chronic workforce shortage, including for low to highly skilled workers was a handbrake on agriculture’s growth.
“As an industry and with Government support, there’s much more work to do to create clear pathways to attract and develop workers and nurture the skills agriculture needs for the future.”
The reform, to come into effect on 1 January 2023, will see between 9-15 Industry Clusters replace the current 67 Industry Reference Committees and the Skills Service Organisations.
Earlier this year, Federal Labor also backed the changes, recognising that VET Industry Clusters would be responsible for ensuring training products were aligned with the skills needed by industry.
“This is a unique opportunity for Industry Clusters to affirm and expand industry leadership in VET, while ensuring all employers have greater engagement in, and access to, the training system,” Mr Mahar said.
“The training needs of Australian farms and the service sector continue to evolve, and we need a system that can evolve with it. These reforms give industry a strong say in the direction skills development and training takes, and is a big step forward,” Mr Mahar said.
While the move is hailed as a positive one for Australian industries, including agriculture, it is imperative that agriculture receives its fair share of the $292.5m funding earmarked for the new arrangement.
“We have unique and complex challenges training people in regional and remote areas, one of those being small numbers of course placements needed to make a big impact on agricultural industries. The metrics for large cohorts of city-based placements don’t always work in the bush and we need to ensure decision makers take these factors into consideration,” Mr Mahar said.
Agricultural output is tipped to hit a record $81 billion in 2021-22, underscoring the significant contribution the sector makes to Australia’s economy.
“Now is the time to invest heavily in our food and fibre industries and ensure that we have the skilled people available to work today, but also on the farms and in food businesses of tomorrow,” Mr Mahar said.
About the Industry Cluster Model
The Industry Clusters will be established through a two-stage grants process. The final number and groupings of industries in each cluster will be settled with industry, providing flexibility for industry to decide the cluster grouping that best aligns to the skills needs of their sectors. Industry Clusters will be established as not-for-profit companies limited by guarantee, with expert boards, and stakeholders represented through membership models and sub-committee structures, addressing identified governance issues experienced in current and previous industry engagement models.
The Industry Clusters will have four broad functions and responsibilities: Workforce planning, occupational standards and training product development, implementation, promotion and monitoring function, and industry stewardship.