Ag education report card 'could do better'

View From the Paddock: Ag education report card 'could do better'

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Brigid Price, Rural Resources. Picture - Mandy McKeesick.

Brigid Price, Rural Resources. Picture - Mandy McKeesick.

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If you are a parent of a high school-aged agricultural student wanting to maximise educational opportunities for your child while they are still at school, I feel your pain.

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If you are a parent of a high school-aged agricultural student wanting to maximise educational opportunities for your child while they are still at school, I feel your pain.

What compounds this issue is knowing the system is letting down our brightest students.

There is a significant focus on bringing people into our industry in areas such as agtech. Currently, the average person will change careers seven times in their working lifetime. So, while we need to encourage smart people to work in agriculture, we can't expect them to stick around indefinitely.

Members of farming and grazing families have unique access to practical skills development growing up. Why is there no focus on a strategic upskilling of this small group of high school students who will most likely spend their entire working life on the land?

Those involved in a family farming business understand teenage children are important contributors to our industry. They are also the reason we want to grow and improve. So why are their educational opportunities while at high school so limited and basic?

The blame does not lie with the end of the agricultural colleges in Queensland. Prior to their closure my enquiries could not identify a course that met our expectations of what a good ag course should include.

The demand for future-focused, technology-driven skills development and enhancement has never been greater.

Short courses presented by world class trainers, in geographical locations accessible to rural students of all ages, makes sense. I hope the closed campuses are utilised for such a purpose in the future.

Unfortunately, boarding schools also do not currently provide a solution. The general view is that certificate IIIs are completed over the senior years and this is the highest qualification on offer.

In Year 10, the best option for our son was to stay at home and complete a Certificate III in Agriculture through a 12 month school-based traineeship.

Educational institutions don't just support academic learning and boarding provides opportunities not available to those who study from home. However, this should not come at the cost of future career needs.

Those in high school who don't want to sit in lecture halls after they graduate should have extension opportunities made readily available in Years 11 and 12.

Not all 16-year-olds are as focused as our son. In some ways it's disappointing that studying from our property is how he will graduate Year 12 with a dual diploma in Agribusiness Management and Agriculture.

Surely the smart state can do better.

- Brigid Price, Rural Resources

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