The world needs creative, innovative and courageous young people who can connect, collaborate and act. We know that youth may only be 20% of the population but they are 100% of the future. The time is now to let them share their dreams and design the future they want to see.
Imagine you’ve grown up in a world of intergenerational unemployment; where no-one in your family has ever held a job. Imagine a world where family life is marred by domestic violence, homelessness, poverty, drug and alcohol abuse. Imagine then how hard it would be to stay at school with no support, and then how much harder again it must be to find and retain a job. Can a career in agriculture be a way forward?
Action4Agriculture’s newest program Action4Youth supports young people from all backgrounds and experiences to thrive in a career in agriculture and those who come from disadvantaged backgrounds face challenges well beyond the technical aspects of a career. Today we speak with Marcus Watson from BackTrack to understand the challenges involved and learn how wraparound support is required if vulnerable young people are to successfully transition into the workplace.
BackTrack is a youth organisation with three jobs: keeping kids alive, out of jail and chasing their hopes and dreams. It achieves this through a unique combination of educational, training and diversionary activities, supported employment, residential accommodation and wraparound youth work.
Marcus believes one of the foundational roles of third-party organisations such as BackTrack is to transition young people to traineeships and jobs by teaching basic employability skills, those unwritten rules of the workplace that most employers assume people will know.
“For example, I grew up with the unwritten rule that if you turned up at 8 for an 8am start, then you were already late. On time means 7.45am. But these expectations aren’t something our young people are familiar with because they haven’t experienced a real-life workplace before and often come from families experiencing intergenerational unemployment.” Marcus says.
This means that a huge focus for BackTrack is developing a young person’s 21st century skills through immersing them in practical, hands-on training opportunities that give them a real insight into the workforce but also ensure that they are well-supported as they learn.
“Employability skills is a really big ball of string to untangle but it is one of those things that can de-rail an opportunity very quickly if it’s not done right. An employer will often let someone go based on the soft skills rather than the technical skills. We make sure that our young people can roll up their sleeves on genuine work projects, out in the paddock or the fabrication shed, and benefit from intensive coaching and support as they do it. This is how we tackle challenges that arise in real time and gradually build their confidence and awareness of employer expectations.”
As with any relationship, the one between employee and employer often revolves around conversation and communication and, again, BackTrack provides its young people with training.
“We help young people with conflict resolution, self-advocacy and negotiation, and if an employer still has concerns they should be able to reach out to a third-party (such as BackTrack) for the extra support and insight needed to continue the conversation with them. We are skilled and funded to facilitate this.”
Giving young people the frames of reference to understand and conquer 21st century skills in the workplace is a cornerstone of BackTrack’s work and ultimately means that their participants can transition into meaningful external employment when the time is right for them. With a unique understanding of the challenges faced by vulnerable young people, BackTrack can offer employees and employers alike the support they need to make these transitions as successful and sustainable as possible.
With a background combining psychology, business strategy, recruitment and human resources, Annie explained how our values underpin everything we do and, as values differ from person to person, how they determine individual attitudes and behaviours.
“We are constantly seeking harmony in how we believe and how we see things. Values are deeply important to the future of work, and the next generation of leaders,” Annie said
The workshop, included sessions on:
The power of Values and what matters most
Exploring leading Values frameworks in positive psychology
Understanding your own Values, and connecting them to your work and life
Values at work, and finding the role, industry and culture for YOU
Australia’s top values, and how our values changed through the COVID pandemic
7 Traits of Change Readiness and how they show up
How to embrace change, and grow for the better
Annie believes understanding values is important for young people as they consider potential careers.
“People of all ages, but particularly our youth, are looking for clarity and direction. How can we look outside of social pressures, grades and qualifications to find purposeful and meaningful work? I think the workshop participants enjoyed understanding that something so deeply embedded within us can help guide us to the roles and industries that will give us fulfilment. This knowledge empowers them to know what to look for, to ask impactful questions of future employers, and to better understand their uniqueness in the world of work,” she said.
Though agriculture traditionally is thought of as a conformist industry, external influences beyond the control of the farmer and the boom-and-bust nature of the industry actually make agriculture a sector for those willing to take risks and be predictive in strategy.
“The industry requires a degree of change readiness and a tolerance for ambiguity. Values like self-direction, stimulation, and hedonism are suited to an industry like this and are often driven by personal goals and self-motivation.”
Yet agriculture’s diversity means there is a place for everyone.
“There are plenty of roles that exist to help and support others and the planet (self-transcendent values), roles that are complex, intelligent and outcomes driven (self-enhancement values), and more process-driven and governance focused roles (conservation values). Understanding your values gives you the insight and self-awareness to seek out these roles throughout the agriculture industry.”
The young people moving through the ACTION4YOUTH program have come from diverse education systems and backgrounds and training sessions such as Annie’s are critical to show that traditional pathways to careers are not the only way.
“We are each unique. Our values help us to define our own path to purposeful and fulfilling work and these workshops help us question where we are and where we are going and help us set goals for the future.”
Thanks to NCI funding ACTION4YOUTH can continue to provide participants and facilitators with training opportunities and support young people from all backgrounds and experiences to thrive in a career in agriculture.
What better way to headline the September Muster (when many of us are still shivering through the tail of winter) than to check in with Bryan Van Wyk as he sends his prawn fleet into warm northern waters. Bryan is a wonderful example of respecting and showcasing those we work with in fishing and agriculture.
“We currently have our fleet of 11 prawn trawlers dispersed across northern Australia over productive “prawn paddocks” ready to deploy their nets for the 2022 tiger prawn season. An incredible amount of behind-the-scenes work goes into getting a fleet like this to sea. I’m talking about a huge collaborative effort from a range of highly skilled contractors, engineers, surveyors, fleet and engineering managers, various suppliers and of course, our crews. We have 60 of the most extraordinary, dedicated, and strongest men and women from all around the world working together to produce some of the highest quality seafood Australia has to offer.
This is the tiger prawn season. Three months at sea catching what many consider to be one of the largest, most premium, and delicious wild caught prawns in the world. At the top of that list sits Skull Island prawns. Skull Island tiger prawns are renowned for their beautiful glossy red colours, versatility in high end dining rooms and sustainability. Primarily sold to Japan, it can fetch a hefty price of up to $100 per kilo retail, but Skull Island prawns are also making their presence felt in Australian domestic markets with many of the country’s best chefs instantly falling in love with the product after cooking with them. Today we raise a glass, salute the people at sea and wish them all a safe and productive 2022 Skull Island season.”
Check out this video starring Bryan talking about the career he loves.
Despite COVID complications still impacting The Archibull Prize and Kreative Koalas, our YFC are doing their part to bring agriculture into the classrooms. Emily May made her live radio debut with ABC Illawarra talking about the successful Paddock Pen Pals program.
“I am really passionate about this program, which connects school students in urban areas with upcoming young rural leaders, allowing them to learn about the wonderful world of agriculture.” Well done, Emily.
In the Field
Also on the ABC was Danielle Fordham, alumni officer at Tocal College, speaking with Bridget Murphy from ABC Newcastle in the lead up to the celebration of 50 years of female students at the college.
“Representing the Tocal College Alumni is deep passion of mine, as an ex-student and now staff member. I have been given the tremendous opportunity to connect and promote our fantastic community. This significant milestone is not just a special occasion for the College, but most importantly a significant milestone for ‘Women in Ag’. As a proud woman in ag, I am continually inspired by the legacies of the women who have pathed the way before me and I hope to continue their ambition in breaking barriers and promoting diversity in our community.”
Literally in the field is Lachlan White who is on the tractor preparing summer feed paddocks for his beef cattle in the Hunter. Having learnt best practice pasture management from dairy farmer Butch Smith, Lachlan, who is now a farm manager with a large pastoral company, has all the skills and resources to prepare and sow 500ha of summer millet/brassica. His steers will enjoy the summer feed, alongside paddocks of existing kikuyu.
Last week Young Farming Champion and agronomist Sam O’Rafferty hosted a group of growers and fellow work colleagues to Tasmania for a cropping tour. They visited several farms in the Midlands and North West Coast regions.
It was fantastic to see many different agricultural production systems and see some of the amazing crop yields that are being achieved.
Out of the Field
Out of the field it is show season with many of our YFC involved.
NSW Rural Achiever state finalist, Lucy Collingridge attended the 2022 Narromine Young Woman competition in July. Lucy joined NSW Minister for Agriculture and Minister for Western NSW Dugald Saunders, and 2022 The Land Sydney Royal AgShows NSW Young Woman winner Molly Wright in judging the 2022 competition. Lucy was impressed with the passion and dedication the entrants demonstrated for agriculture and their rural communities:
“all of the entrants are outstanding young women and should be so proud of their contribution to their rural communities and ag industries. It’s opportunities like the Young Woman (formally Showgirl) competition that will continue to develop women across rural NSW who are our future leaders and role models for the next generation”
Katherine Bain, representing Beaufort Show, is one of 11 finalists in the Victorian Rural Ambassador awards for 2022. Katherine is representing young people in wool. The winner will be announced at the end of September.
Continuing her duties as the 2022 National Rural Ambassador, Dione Howard, attended the Brisbane EKKA in August.
“It was an honour to judge the Qld Rural Ambassador Award and meet ten incredible young people promoting shows, agriculture and rural life. The night show at the EKKA, a tour through Qld Parliament House and an agricultural tour coordinated by AgForce Qld were highlights of a jam-packed few days.”
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Conferences are always a good place for our YFC to meet up and often present to industry.
“It was an exciting two days as we listened to a range of speakers talk about the potential future of livestock from a social and technological standpoint,” Katherine says. “We also got to put our thinking hats on and work through a future scenario about what farms could look like in 15 years. My table was looking at the potential of using robotics on farm, and what the opportunities and restraints of this might be. We got to meet a wide range of people in the livestock industry, from producers to researchers. I would like to thank AWI for sponsoring me to go to this wonderful event.”
Emily May was attended the 2022 Cotton Conference on the Gold Coast in August and was particularly impressed with the session on reversing the rural brain, which included insights on how to attract city kids to agriculture from friend of the YFC Scott Graham. Presenting at the conference were YFCs Liz Lobsey (discussing raingrown cotton) and Connie Mort (discussing new herbicides) while Emma Ayliffe was presented with the ADAMA Chris Lehmann Trust ‘Young Cotton Achiever of the Year’.
Out of the field our YFC are also stepping up to take on industry and media roles.
Florance McGufficke is revelling in her new role with the Vincent Fairfax Foundation as part of the inaugural VFFF Youth Advisory Group.
“I am very grateful for this opportunity and honoured to have been selected to be a member of this amazing group and work with such an influential and passionate organisation. ‘Backing young people’ is where it needs to start and I believe this initiative is going to create numerous opportunities. I am excited to see where this journey will take me and what I can give back to the experience. Thanks to Lynne for sharing and helping me to ‘go for it’.”
Young Farming Champion and NSW Rural Ambassador Jess Fearnley has also been busy. As part of her position on the Researchers in Agriculture for International Development (RAID) she co-hosted a scholars day before the Annual Crawford Conference.
It was rewarding to put my presentation skills and facilitation skills to the test that I learnt with YFC.
As part of the Rural Achiever program we also had the opportunity to head to visit the Royal Adelaide Show on an exchange program to see the behind the scenes of the show!
Following in the footsteps of YFC Dione Howard and Sam Wan before her, Emma Turner has been announced as the 2022 WoolProducers Youth Ambassador. As part of the “Raising the Bar” program Emma will gain insights into policy development and board operations at WoolProducers, the national advocacy body for Australian wool growers. Emma currently works as the District Wool Manager for Elders in Mildura.
Jo Newton has been invited to contribute a regular column for Australian Community Media.
“I’m excited by the opportunity to be a regular contributor for Australian Community Media’s publications. It’s important the voices and images we see in media reflect the diversity of people working across the agricultural sector. Not only is it important to have different perspectives represented in media, but also to help young people identify role models and be able to visualise themselves working in food and fibre production.”
The FarmOnline column is a continuation of Jo’s advocacy work. In her role as a research geneticist she travelled to Rotterdam in The Netherlands to attend the World Congress on Genetics Applied to Livestock Production in July where she co-chaired a session on “Young Scientist Career Development” alongside Dr Marta Godia, Dr Hugo Toledo and Dr Biaty Raymond.
“It was an honour to co-chair the first Young Scientists Session, a valuable and much needed addition to the conference agenda. Our panellists all spoke incredibly honestly and openly about their career journeys including tackling tough topics like mental health and imposter syndrome, which was very inspiring for all in attendance.”
Photo credit European Forum of Farm Animal Breeders/Farm Animal Breeding and Reproduction Technology Platform
Marlee Langfield became Marlee Gallagher in late August when she and Andrew married at The Rustic Maze and Country Garden near Cowra. Check out this beautiful shot starring their beloved dog, Ellie. Congratulations to you both Marlee and Andrew.
Many employers over a long period of time, both on-farm and off-farm, have had an expectation that it is the government’s role to provide appropriately trained labour to their industries free of charge. That is flawed thinking: other sectors seem to engage at all levels of education.
They recommend greater industry investment in education.
… initiatives that influence people‘s career explorations, decision-making, choices and actions. Generating public awareness and knowledge about agriculture is one thing but affecting individuals career decisions is an entirely different matter. To design effective interventions to attract and retain staff requires a thorough understanding of how individuals build their careers and the different factors that influence people‘s careers decisions, choices and actions and their job satisfaction and intentions to remain in a job or industry. We need to move beyond simply campaigning for a greater public awareness of an appreciation for the types of work in agriculture.
The Action4Agriculture team are super excited to be given the opportunity through National Careers Institute funding to see what steps are required to turn AWARENESS into ATTRACTION. Visit our website here
And we all know ATTRACTION in one thing RETENTION is another.
This is where our SUPPORT package comes in for EVERYONE involved including careers advisors, students, mentors and employers
Supporting the students ( NextGen Employees ) and careers advisors will be Liv Pennie and team from Become Education
Its getting to the pointy end of the 2022 Kreative Koalas Design a Bright Future Challenge and the Centre of Excellence in Agricultural Education was excited to share their artwork with the world yesterday
Her name, Warada is the Darug word for Waratah and she symbolises resilience and renewal.
Please take a minute to read her amazing story of students, plants, community, resilience and renewal…..
Warada has been part of an 18 month project at the Centre, working with primary schools across the Hawkesbury. Her design began in an Aboriginal primary student leader workshop we held with schools in June 2021, exploring native plants of the Hawkesbury and their uses for food, fibre and other uses and an introduction to plant and soil sciences.
We had to cancel the following workshops due to COVID lock downs, however this gave us a new approach. We were able to engage additional students from across the Hawkesbury region in the project through our weekly learning from home challenges. Students researched plants from their local area and presented their learning in artist design, journalistic prose and educational materials. We were able to sustain this program throughout the greater lock down period. We have built a learning website that is connected to Warada which includes the input of all students.
Warada tells the story of plant communities from Bilpin to the floodplains around Londonderry and Windsor Downs. Beginning in Bilpin, at the head of our Warada, with an actual Waratah flower front and centre, and the endangered Gordon’s Wattle inside the ears, which has regrown in the area following the devastating fires when it was feared the species had been wiped out.
Our journey continues along Bells Line of Road, down Warada’s back, through Kurrajong where we have seed-pods, blossoms and leaves of the Kurrajong Tree running down one side of the road, and a Sassafras Scar Tree, from base to canopy, along the other. Across the Hawkesbury River, the road continues towards the Castlereagh, Agnes Banks and Windsor Downs nature reserves where, if you look carefully, you can find the endangered Nodding Geebung blooms and fruits, as well as an endangered yellow pea flower known as the ‘Sydney bush pea’ (Pultenaea Parviflora) and a rare tiny purple ‘Grass lily’ (Murdannia Graminea).
The front of Warada displays a burnt log with a vibrant bud bursting from its centre, mirroring Warada’s meaning. This is flanked by Australia’s beloved Flannel Flowers and Grass Trees.
Warada, and the entire project, proved itself to be about resilience and renewal. We started working with the primary school communities immediately after the bushfires and then the first flood. We worked with them online during lock-down and have connected again between 2022 flood events.
We are fortunate to have some of those students as part of our AGSTEM Yr 7 cohort this year and in 2023.
Congratulations to all the schools of the Hawkesbury and their students, who connected in some way to the Hawkesbury Plant project and the development of Warada.
Australian agriculture is at the crossroads. It is charging
ahead towards its goal of $100 billion gross value
of production (GVP) by 2030 but is compromised in
that endeavour by its limited ability to find a suitable
Our Young Farming Champions know its important to engage the next generation in conversations about careers in agriculture as soon as possible
Today Wool Young Farming Champion Katherine Bain had those conversations with 110 Kindergarten students at Sydney Primary School as part of our Paddock Pen Pals program
Armed with a list of questions provided to teachers by the students, Katherine settled in to share her story of her farm in Victoria
Students wanted to know
How big was Katherine’s farm which she explained in comparison to football fields and netball courts
How many paddocks and what do all the colours mean. Katherine explained the difference between improved, perennial and native pastures
what sort of sheep do you have on your farm? Katherine explained that her farm was very rocky as it was on the site of a former volcano so they had two types of sheep on their farm
Coopworth Sheep from NZ which are bred for their meat and highly suited to rocky terrain
Merino Sheep highly valued for their wool quality
the students asked her what she did every day and she talked about how no two days were the same and the variety of jobs on farm. She talked about how she loved working with and learning from her dad. And how she loved being able to take her dogs to work
Meet Lenny, Zip and Carly
There were lots and lots of questions about Zip
The students wanted to know about the difference between human hair and wool
Katherine is very proud that her family has dedicated an area of their farm to protecting endangered native grasslands
“On my farm specifically we do a lot of work in conserving the native grasslands that remain on the property. These grasslands are part of the 1% of the volcanic grasslands that once stretched from Melbourne to near the SA border. We are very lucky to have these grasslands remaining – so we work with botanists and biologists to work out the best ways of preserving and improving these grasslands”
And the questions and answers continued
It was fascinating to be a fly on the wall watching 50 students queue up to ask Katherine questions
How do sheep sleep?
Is it muddy at your farm?
How long does wool grow?
Why does wool keep you both cool and warm?
Do sheep often get lost?
How many steps do sheep walk in one day?
How much water do sheep drink in one day?
How much grass do sheep eat in one day?
Are some sheep naughty?
Does wool grow as fast as hair?
How heavy do rams get?
Over the past two months our Young Farming Champions have spoken at science conferences across the world, they have presented to students across the Asia Pacific and over the next two weeks they will be talking to kindergarten students.
To have the confidence and capacity to reach such diverse audiences they have had a minimum of two years of intensive training. As Katherine found out its equally rewarding talking to six year olds as it it sharing scientific research.
As the below graphic and statistics show having role models like Katherine engaging with the next generation are pivotal to raising awareness that there is a career for them in agriculture.
As Pratley et al highlight employment offerings on-farm show no signs of declining or levelling off. (See above graphic) Rather, they have intensified. On-farm over the period of 2015 to 2021 inclusive, the demand for management personnel, based on internet advertisements, increased by over 160%
and for non-management staff by around 77%.
The increase for on-farm staff overall increased by 53% in 2021 over that for 2020. In agribusiness, i.e. off-farm professional employment, the demand increased by 44% over the six-year period and by 70% in 2021
These increases seem extraordinary.
The question we ask is are we leveraging all the opportunities we have at our disposal to engage with the next generation from K to 12 and beyond?
Are we ready to see it as a marathon not a sprint?
Are we ready for best practice?
You can read Katherine’s story in Graziher magazine here