Queensland’s agriculture sector is facing an estimated shortfall of up to 7,000 casual workers and resulting crop losses running into the tens of millions of dollars following the COVID-19 pandemic and international travel restrictions. Recent school-leavers on a gap year could be key to filling some of these vacant casual positions. However, recent research carried out by the Queensland Farmers’ Federation (QFF) has found a number of prevailing myths about working in the sector have hindered young people from experiencing agriculture.
The Growing in Ag Report conducted a research survey and utilised other data to further agriculture’s understanding of the perceived barriers of young people to working in the sector with a view to attracting more gap year experiences and opportunities. The research survey found the most common reason why recent school leavers do not engage with agricultural work is because of location, with more than half of the respondents citing a belief that they live too far away from agricultural employers. Almost a third of respondents attributed not finding any agricultural jobs as a key reason for them not engaging in gap year agricultural employment, while a quarter of all respondents believed agriculture was a low paying industry when compared to employment alternatives including hospitality and retail.
However, analysis of ABS production data identified that gap year takers live far closer to an agricultural employer than they often believe and given that agricultural employers offer many casual and permanent opportunities, there are plenty of jobs on offer. In addition, the agricultural awards are preferable, and a better hourly wage can be earned by individuals working in the agriculture industry, and agriculture employees can work comparatively more hours than those in other industries increasing their earning potential.
The QFF-led Rural Jobs and Skills Alliance (RJSA) is attempting to address this misunderstanding by taking the guesswork out of farm work and providing a prospective job pathway through the Farm-Ready Card, while RJSA members including Cotton Australia and Growcom facilitate their own gap year agriculture work programs. The agriculture sector now has an opportunity to implement the report recommendations, break down these perceived barriers and encourage more people to join us on farm.