CQUniversity has been selected to deliver Phase 2 of a new AgriFutures project aimed at introducing secondary students to the diverse careers available in the agricultural sector.
The second phase of the Cultivating Futures: Engaging Secondary School Students in the World of Agricultural Careers project will see agricultural researchers and experts from CQUniversity’s Agricultural Education and Extension Cluster develop resources and tools that can be utilised to raise the career aspirations of Australian high school students to pursue a career within the agricultural industry.
As part of the project delivery, CQUniversity’s experts will collaborate with teachers and careers advisors across Australia to design relevant, engaging and future-focused content.
CQUniversity was also the successful research partner for Phase 1 of the project which involved an online survey and series of focus groups with NSW teachers and careers advisors to assess their perceptions and knowledge of the agriculture sector and gain an understanding of how career education occurred in their school.
The materials and resources that will be developed as part of Phase 2 will be informed by findings from the initial research project which identified that respondents overwhelmingly had a positive view of the industry and the scope of careers available but faced challenges when it came to engaging with industry and a general lack of confidence when it came to promoting career opportunities in the industry.
CQUniversity Agricultural Education and Extension lead Associate Professor Amy Cosby said that the Phase 1 research findings provided valuable insight into how the agricultural industry is viewed and the barriers facing career influencers in promoting the industry to future workforces.
“An overwhelming majority of respondents who provide influence over the study and career choices of secondary students said that their opinion of the agricultural industry was positive and that they would encourage students to consider future careers in the industry.
“Along with that, we also found that a growing focus and interest in STEM related subjects was a growing driver when it came to realising possible opportunities in the agricultural industry because a lot of emerging roles in the sector are now focused on the application of science and technology, to improve efficiencies and realise higher productivity,” said Assoc. Prof Cosby.
Despite this, Dr Cosby said that career influencers including teachers and career advisors were still facing challenges when it comes to promoting ag careers due to the lack of available resources, a lack of confidence when it comes to promoting careers and also an engrained perception that a majority of agricultural jobs were low-skilled.
“Some of our career influencers definitely still perceive agricultural jobs as being about driving tractors, checking fencing, or picking crops.
“Whilst this work is definitely still in place and valuable, farmers are increasingly becoming savvier when it comes to adopting new technologies and applying more hi-tech processes that are making their farms more efficient and sustainable.
“As well as these direct on-farm roles, we are also determined to promote careers in areas that aren’t traditionally associated with agriculture, including marketing, logistics, food safety and technology, engineering, and trades.
“Our goal with Phase 2 of the project is to expose these opportunities and to showcase that there are so many role types suited to different personalities, skills sets and strengths.
“We will do this by developing tools and resources that align with current curriculums, connecting teachers and career advisors and their students with people in the industry, and creating opportunities to participate in experiences that reflect the real world of agricultural work.
“We will also create a guide that support schools to find suitable work placements for their students and deliver a range of professional development opportunities for teachers and careers advisors to ensure they are connected and aware of industry innovations and workforce needs.”
AgriFutures Australia Manager, Workforce Delivery Abbey O’Callaghan said it is important students have access to information about career opportunities in agriculture from a trusted source like teachers and career advisors at key decision times.
"The agriculture industry can really benefit from projecting a strong and positive profile in the education system. However, without appropriate resources or engagement, teachers and career advisors may not be properly equipped to inform students about the exciting and diverse opportunities the agricultural sector can offer.”
Resources and tools as part of the program will begin development in September with implementation to commence from October 2023.
The work will also be complemented by an evaluation framework to measure the program in terms of impact and influence to foster students increased awareness and aspiration for a career in agriculture.
The CQUniversity Agricultural Education and Extension team are now looking to connect with schools and teachers from across Australia who would like to partner with them to trial the new resources, including curriculum and work placement guides, or host CQU researchers who will facilitate industry informed incursion and excursion activities for Year’s 9-12 students. Feedback received from students and teachers will be integrated into the final resources before they are released to schools Australia-wide.
For more information and to expression your interest in being involved please email firstname.lastname@example.org.