High school students from all corners of the state eagerly took up the chance to get involved in potential careers in agriculture, as part of the Food and Fibre Education SA Initiative camp held last month.
More than 50 careers in the agriculture sector were showcased to the students in the hope of illustrating how diverse the industry is, and what unique doors could be opened for high school graduates with a passion for agriculture.
Food and Fibre Education SA manager Belinda Cay said the aim was to have students understand agriculture “is more than just gumboots and tractors”.
Belinda said while farming was an integral career, it could be perceived by students as an industry that was difficult to get in to or know what path to take within it.
“Some students viewed it as a career option that was not relevant to them because their family does not own a farm, or it is not something they are particularly engaged with,” she said.
“Whereas when we changed the messaging or the branding, by saying we need graduates to look at food quality, food production, engineering, technology design or nutrition management, we were able to get more students involved.”
The four-day camp began at Coopers Brewery, since multiple students were interested in careers in the malting and brewing sector, she said.
Students then toured organisations including the University of Adelaide, machinery dealer Emmetts, Laucke Mills, Landmark, the University of SA, AGT Grain, Ashmore White Suffolk Stud, Wasleys, and Udder Delights, Lobethal.
Belinda said continuing the camp each year was important because research conducted by past University of Adelaide honours student Aisha Hargraves, who wrote a thesis on students’ perceptions of agriculture careers, revealed most students in the metropolitan region viewed careers in agriculture as just farming.
“We know from this research that there are about six jobs for every agriculture or agribusiness graduate, and a lot of those jobs are not farming,” she said.
“Part of our initiative is building contacts for the students because during the camp we find students usually resonate with at least two or more of the industry visits they go on.
“So the students select a place to work in for a week to learn what life could be like as an agronomist or an agricultural engineer.”
New Holland Agriculture will fund an extra camp in its entirety because there were more applications than places available this year.
“It was hard to turn away enthusiastic students,” Ms Cay said.
Abundant career choices available
Balaklava High School students Tom Gameau and Madison Bond were selected to attend the Food and Fibre Education SA Initiative camp after demonstrating their passion for agriculture.
Both students had very different ideas about what their path in the sector could be, and Tom, although from a farming family was interested in exploring agronomy rather than returning to the farm.
"I wanted to find out what my other options were," he said.
"The plant breeding at AGT was really interesting because it is a very precise process.”
Tom will undertake his work experience at Landmark Gawler and said the passionate agronomists who spoke to the 20 students involved made him realise it was a career he could see himself pursuing.
Balaklava High School head agriculture teacher Sue Pratt said a lot of students had a picture of agriculture in their minds that was very different to what it could offer them as a career.
"Learning about the range of agribusinesses and agricultural opportunities that are available was vital," she said.
Although her extended family were involved in farming, Madison's experience of agriculture was that it had become an industry she was not sure she could become a part of.
"Many of the students at the camp and at the tours were not from a farm, so it was good to talk with each other," she said.
Madison’s interest is in rural mental health and she hopes to undertake her work experience in the psychology field.