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.
In the first school term of 2023 ACTION4YOUTH’s EXPLORE-CONNECT-SUPPORT program will roll out in ten schools across the Illawarra and Shoalhaven that have identified a percentage of disadvantaged youth in their school population.
In addition, ACTION4YOUTH will be working with the youth-employment-focused Shoalhaven Community Investment Committee, led by Mission Australia and supported by the Brotherhood of St Laurence, to reach NEET (not in education, employment or training) youth and give them the same opportunities as those in mainstream education.
The EXPLORE phase of the program will introduce young people to the wool, dairy and fishing industries, connect them to Young Farming Champions (early-career professionals working in the agriculture sector), give them access to the Become Education app and facilitate personalised sessions with careers counsellors.
Those showing an interest in working on-farm/on-boat will progress to the CONNECT phase, which will connect them with businesses from wool, dairy and fishing for structured discussions on careers and career pathways in these industries.
The final phase – SUPPORT – will provide training and work experience over a six month period and give youth access to the Dale Carnegie Next Generation course, designed specifically to build and strengthen soft and life skills in order to give them the highest chance of career success.
Federal Member for Gilmore, Fiona Phillips MP believes the ACTION4YOUTH program has the potential to make a real difference in the local community
“I am thrilled to support the ACTION4YOUTH program, which will provide young people in our community with valuable opportunities to explore the dairy, fishing and wool industries, connect with early-career professionals, and receive personalised career guidance. With the support of Become Education and key industry partners, I have no doubt that this program will make a real difference in the lives of our youth and help them achieve their full potential in dynamic and diverse careers right here on the NSW South Coast.” Federal Member for Gilmore, Fiona Phillips MP
L-R Liv Pennie (CEO of Become Education ) Bronwyn Hilaire Bomaderry High School, Fiona Phillips MP, Holly Pastor Bomaderry High School, Danii Fordham Tocal College Alumni Officer
ACTION4YOUTH has partnered with Become Education to deliver 21st century careers advise and pathway creation, and to fill the void where schools do not have careers advisors.
“Research shows that young people have a narrow idea of the world of work. They can hold simplistic or outdated ideas of careers. Agriculture is a prime example of a dynamic, changing and diverse field that is open to students of all backgrounds and interests. Agriculture can offer engaging careers for those with specialty knowledge from engineering to agribusiness, plant and animal systems, logistics, ecology, production processes and technology – to name only a few,” Liv Pennie, CEO and Founder of Become Education says.
Even before its commencement ACTION4YOUTH has gained the attention of international stakeholders, including Chris Webb, careers consultant for England’s University of Huddersfield and host of the #WeAreCareers Show, who writes:
“For me, this is a brilliant way to empower young people with career management skills and support them and their parents/carers to navigate an increasingly chaotic world, as well as mitigate the sense of ‘information overload’ that we so often hear as careers professionals.”
Action4Youth’s key business connections are Australian Wool Innovation, Dairy Australia and Austral Fisheries.
Traditionally agriculture has not conducted longitudinal studies following the journey of participants in its agricultural awareness programs. We look forward to that changing.
Today’s story is very rewarding for our organisation. Our journalist the wonderful Mandy McKeesick interviewed Danielle Fordham who we first met over 12 years ago when she participated in The Archibull Prize during secondary school
Young Farming Champion Danielle Fordham (centre front row ) inspiring the next generation of agriculturalists to follow in her footsteps
Action4Agriculture offers a holistic suite of programs designed to inspire and empower agricultural advocates and leaders. We realise this is not a sprint but a marathon that requires long-term commitment from ourselves, our partners and, most of all, the young people we want to inspire and cultivate.
I was part of The Archibull Prize in 2011 and 2012 and the experience was incredible. It connected my learnings in the classroom to the real world. As a cohort, my friends and I loved participating, bonding and getting to meet like-minded people our own age who shared the same passions.
I enjoyed researching issues such as how to feed a growing population, learning more about cow by-products (did you know cow parts are used in cosmetics and medicine?) and showcasing the trophy-worthy dairy and red-meat industries. It was great to come up with creative ideas to communicate these issues and showcase agriculture in a new light to the wider public.
The experience opened my eyes to the endless opportunities in agriculture and it cemented my interest and career ambitions in the agricultural field. Most importantly The Archibull Prize connected me with the brilliant organisation that is Action4Agriculture (previously Art4Agriculture) and the opportunities it has provided me.
Since high school you’ve become a poster girl for the diversity of Australian agriculture, undertaking a business traineeship, attending Tocal Agricultural College (Double Dux!!), working in agribusiness, studying an environmental university degree and working as the Alumni Officer at Tocal. How did it feel to add Young Farming Champion (YFC) to your resume in 2022?
It was deeply empowering to be selected as a Young Farming Champion. I was struggling to find my connection back to the agricultural industry as I had moved into the environmental science sector and the YFC program provided the best opportunity to combine the two.
The experiences and workshops provided by Action4Agriculutre as a YFC have strengthened my confidence and ability to a stand as a clear, trusted voice in agriculture. I want to make a positive impact on agriculture and support the community, and YFC has enabled me to do this and more. YFC has broadened my horizons and I feel I can go further with my career than I ever imagined.
And, specifically, what skills has the YFC program given you?
The YFC program has taught me essential skills such as how to be an effective communicator, how to be an inspirational speaker and presenter and how to efficiently manage my time. The program has given me a network of peers and industry and community contacts.
Through YFC I have converted my passion for agriculture into a vehicle to empower other young people, such as my students at Tocal Agricultural College.
In 2023 we are launching Action4Youth, which aims to introduce disadvantaged young people to career pathways in agriculture. You participated in a pilot program at Lake Illawarra High School last year. What was that like?
It felt incredibly rewarding to be able to connect with students who were like me: interested in agriculture but who didn’t grow up on a farm or have the money to study agriculture straight out of school.
I was able to share my story and empower the students to think outside the square. I could assure them there are plenty of opportunities out there after school and, as a living example, that you are not limited by your HSC or ATAR results. If you are passionate about a career or lifestyle, there is nothing stopping you. You have just got to keep looking for your next step and embrace the skills and lessons you learn along the way.
Additionally, I was equally inspired by the Lake Illawarra students and their tenacity and enthusiasm. It was great to learn from each other and feel connected to the future of agriculture and our communities.
Young Farming Champions Lachie White and Danii Fordham were a big hit with students and teachers at Lake Illawarra High School
Overall, how do you feel the Action4Agriculture programs align with your aspirations for your own career?
The Action4Agriculture programs align with my aspirations of being a clear, trusted and influential leader in the sustainable agriculture field in two particular arenas: marrying agriculture and science, and promoting women.
The environmental world is in turmoil with global issues of climate change, ocean acidification, food and resource insecurity, habitat destruction, and contamination. These issues threaten all our livelihoods and existence; and this make creating a future we all want to be part of a shared responsibility. Agriculture is a key industry in combating and controlling these issues with opportunities in technological innovation, sustainable and regenerative practices, environment restoration, carbon capture and rehabilitation integration. The opportunities for agriculture to be part of the solution are endless.
To create these solutions it is vital to strengthen the connection and relationship between agriculture and science and I plan to do this by promoting sustainable agriculture.
Championing women in agriculture and science is also a passion of mine and in 2022 I organised an event to recognise 50 years of female students at Tocal College. By telling my own story and connecting with like-minded women we can overcome social challenges and promote equality.
Action4Agriculture’s ethos and opportunities to connect directly with the next generation and particularly the training and networking received as a Young Farming Champion enables me to effectively communicate these challenges and find the solutions we all need.
A new program to be delivered by Action4Agriculture (A4A) in 2023 will reimagine the way young people see and access career pathways in agriculture. Supported by the National Careers Institute, ACTION4YOUTH, will engage with youth aged 15-24 years, either identified as disengaged, Indigenous or migrant, to explore a career in agriculture and/or fisheries, connect them to business and industry and, give them opportunities to undertake work experience in agriculture and fisheries.
The project will deliver across three phases:
EXPLORE: A series of careers awareness activities, with supported self-reflection on motivators, barriers, aptitude and interest across three key commodities: dairy, wool and fishing.
CONNECT: Participants connect with businesses and Young Farming Champions, to discuss career opportunities and learn what it is to be part of the agricultural/fisheries workforce.
SUPPORT: Training for job and life skills, and personal growth, will support youth to engage with a farm business/fishing enterprise. Students who complete the program will have the opportunity to undertake work experience to support them to gain practical and life skills for commencing a career in agriculture/fisheries.The initial phase of the project, EXPLORE, will connect young people, including from BackTrack, with career exploration professionals to increase awareness of career pathways within dairy, wool and fisheries. Using a combination of video, apps, workshops, personalised counselling sessions and direct connection to individuals working in the sector, young people will explore their own motivations and interests and look across all aspects of agriculture/fisheries production, including jobs of today and the future.
Even before its official launch ACTION4YOUTH has been gaining the attention of international stakeholders, including from Chris Webb, careers consultant for England’s University of Huddersfield and host of the #WeAreCareers Show, who writes:
“For me, this is a brilliant way to empower young people with career management skills and support them and their parents/carers to navigate an increasingly chaotic world, as well as mitigate the sense of ‘information overload’ that we so often hear as careers professionals.”
ACTION4YOUTH will partner with BECOME Education to deliver 21st century careers advise and pathway creation, and to fill the void where schools do not have careers advisors.
“Research shows that young people have a narrow idea of the world of work. They can hold simplistic or outdated ideas of careers. Agriculture is a prime example of a dynamic, changing and diverse field that is open to students of all backgrounds and interests. Agriculture can offer engaging careers for those with specialty knowledge from engineering to agribusiness, plant and animal systems, logistics, ecology, production processes and technology – to name only a few,” Liv Pennie, CEO and Founder of BECOME Education says.
As part of our NCI funding ACTION4YOUTH provides 21st century skills training to our Young Farming Champion (YFC) mentors, careers advisors, students (the next generation employees) and our prospective employers.
Following her successful workshop on Values at Work, Annie Simpson has delivered another masterclass teaching our ACTION4YOUTH stakeholders how to have challenging conversations in the workplace.
“Challenging conversations are a part of business, and it is in the best interest of employees to empower their people with impactful tools and frameworks to promote more positive outcomes,” Annie says.
$4.45 billion is the cost of recruiting for the people who resign every year because of challenging conversations going wrong so this workshop was an important step in rectifying this problem.
The workshop began by introducing the concept of mattering, which is the belief that we are all a significant part of the world around us and that we are noticed, affirmed and needed right now.
It then taught participants to recognise what form a challenging conversation could take before giving tools and frameworks to best address these issues.
“Challenging conversations come in many shapes and forms, including giving and receiving feedback, discussing ‘failures’, sharing personal challenges, and calling out the elephant in the room,” Annie says.
The difference between ego-based (defensive, armoured, fear-based, fixed, transactional) and heart-based (authentic, open, others focused, situational and adaptive, personal/human) conversations was also explored, as was using emotionally intelligent practices to realise objectives while being considerate of the person at the other end of the conversation.
“Recognising your own bias or ‘monkey brain’ helps you approach the situation with emotional intelligence and great self-awareness, but when we cannot control the behaviours and attitudes of others, how can we set ourselves up for success during these often uncomfortable moments?” Annie asked the participants before giving them time to reflect on or prepare for their own challenging conversations.
The Challenging Conversations workshop proved popular with YFC
“Annie Simpson’s workshop on Challenging Conversations was an excellent opportunity to reflect on how we communicate and engage with others in our professional and personal lives. Annie asked us to consider times when we have had to express difficult or sometimes conflicting emotions, the ways we succeeded, and the places we could improve. In particular, I found the conversation on the difference between ego and heart a welcome reminder to reflect on the intentions behind our actions and how we ensure they lead us towards positive behaviours. I was grateful to participate in the workshop breakout sessions with Dylan Male, a fellow YFC peer and PhD candidate. I enjoyed reflecting on times in my PhD candidature journey when I had to have challenging conversations and was inspired by Dylan’s positivity and thoughtfulness in his own reflections.” says Francesca Earp
Using an Explore-Connect-Support model Action4Youth has a vision to help young people thrive in a career in agriculture. This includes working with primary and secondary schools to increase awareness of the diversity of agricultural careers and showcase various pathways that can create and shape a dream working life.
As part of the Explore phase, students and teachers have access to BECOME. This teacher-led program encourages students from upper primary onwards to explore, design and navigate their future, while building independence and agency over that future.
Beginning in primary school is critical. Research by the OECD, Monash University and BECOME Education each independently found that about half of all students intend to work on just ten career areas out of the many thousands of careers available. Even more alarmingly, research from Monash University showed that 55% of the female students they focused on, chose careers to please someone else, not their own strengths and interests.
About the BECOME program:
Purpose built for years 5 – 12, it fuses technology with research
Ready-to-go lessons inspire confidence and help students develop the skills to shape their own future
Flexible Year or Stage scope and sequence plans integrate and align with Learning Areas across the Australian Curriculum, General Capabilities and the Australian Blueprint for Career Development (ABCD) skills framework
The dynamic student web app actively engages students and opens their minds to the broader possibilities of career areas, rather than narrowing them down to a decision
Incorporates facilitated, professional development for educators, including non-careers specialist teachers
Insights dashboard enables a personalised and proactive approach to student career conversations and gives teachers real insight into students’ emerging aspirations.
Holly Paster is the Careers and Transition Adviser at Bomaderry High School who have chosen the BECOME program, including the app and lessons. We spoke to Holly about her experience:
“The app was appealing to us for a number of reasons. Firstly, the platform works well with our iPad-centred school – our students use them in class and at home. Secondly the program is evidence-based, which we, as a school collective, value. Thirdly, we can embed activities that support the transition to high school, which allows us to increase our engagement in career planning and career development from an early age, and then maintain that consistency throughout the high school years. And fourthly, it provides professional development and trains staff how to use it effectively in their classes.”
BECOME allows students to design careers from the inside out and to practice 21st century skills through the implementation of experiments to explore, test and refine their career aspirations. As research from the Institute for the Future (IFTF) shows, 85% of jobs that will exist in 2030 haven’t been invented yet. In the changing world of work, it’s much more effective to have students create their own unique career direction for the future rather than picking a job. As they engage with the program and learn more about themselves, what motivates and inspires them, BECOME data shows that 50% of students change their career aspirations, as they refine and become more educated about the type of work, workplaces and careers that best suit what they now know about themselves.
Having parents involved in careers education is another feature of BECOME that excites Holly. She says,
“I think parents want to support their children and they’re looking for information to do that, which is really quite difficult because there’s just so much out there. It’s the opposite of how it used to be, where they couldn’t get the information; now there’s just so much that it’s overwhelming. Having one central area [such as BECOME] where they can access quality advice and evidence-based careers education, is what we think is critical. Opening both student and parent eyes to different career pathways is a goal of ours.”
Using Awareness (of your unique self and of the world of work), Aspiration (articulating directions and researching pathways) and Agency (taking charge of their own lives) the BECOME program, and Action4Youth will help students answer questions beyond the scope of traditional careers education. For example:
How agriculture provides us with clues about the future of work and the world’s “To Do List”.
Why some of the coolest jobs exist near the wickedest problems.
The pressure to ‘follow your passion’, and why that can be complicated.
Purpose and fulfilment – why does it matter?
Who defines success in your community? What is your own personal definition of success?
Creating awareness, aspiration and agency around agricultural careers is a powerful and affirming way to help our young people thrive.
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.
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