THE number of students choosing to study agriculture at Australian universities this year has jumped by 16 per cent on last year.
Preliminary data from the Tertiary Admissions Centres shows applications to study agriculture courses have increased from 2537 to nearly 3000.
The popularity of the courses has been boosted by the $1 billion federal government's Job-ready Graduates program which is partially aimed at giving extra support for students in regional and remote Australia.
Agriculture, along with other subjects like nursing and teaching, has been identified as a national priority for the rebuilding of the economy.
There is a $27,000 government contribution offered for agriculture degrees by the government.
Decentralisation and Regional Education Minister Andrew Gee said the increase in applications for agriculture degrees was a positive sign for Australia's COVID recovery.
"Despite the devastation caused by last year's bushfires, drought and the COVID-19 pandemic, our agricultural industry continues to thrive," Minister Gee said.
"Soon to be worth $100 billion per year, Australia's agricultural industry is critical to our economic recovery, which is why it's fantastic to see so many young Australians taking an interest in this vital field.
"Australia's agriculture industry of tomorrow will need highly skilled and experienced graduates who understand best practice regional farming - and that all starts at university.
"Our agricultural industry employs more than 250,000 people and as the sector continues grow, so do the job opportunities for our future agriculture graduates."
He said under the Job-ready Graduates reforms, Australian students will now pay $3950 to study agriculture - a 59pc reduction in the cost from last year.
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The rising interest in agriculture comes as the Central Qld University this week launched a national agricultural awareness survey.
The survey aims to learn about students' knowledge and understanding of the agriculture industry in primary and secondary schools.
CQUniversity research fellow in Agri-tech Education and Extension, Dr Amy Cosby, said there was a clear need for updated data in this area.
"We all know that agriculture is a part of our everyday lives, through the food we eat and the clothes we wear and given that it's a key driver of the Australian economy," she said.
"To ensure that the next generation is ready to support our food and fibre production, we need to engage young people early and inspire them to consider a career in the industry.
"However, without current, accurate data on their level of agricultural knowledge and learnings, we are basically working in the dark."
CQ University said its national survey would lead to the development of new educational programs for Australian teachers and students.
"Each program will be aimed at increasing students' agricultural knowledge, awareness, and appreciation, to help inspire the next generation," Dr Cosby said
"The learnings will also highlight any gaps to support the need for future collaboration between educational institutions and agricultural industry groups."
Dr Cosby encouraged principals of Australian primary and secondary schools to nominate to have their students participate in the national survey.
"There are two versions of the survey - the first tailored to primary school students in years four to six, and the other to secondary school students in grades seven to 10," she said.
The online form is here.
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