More highly skilled workers are needed to grow food industry according to study

Image credit: Flickr user Muffet

A recent study conducted on the Australian food industry found that more highly skilled workers are needed in order to capitalise on growth opportunities, both in agriculture production and food processing.

Image credit: Flickr user Muffet
Image credit: Flickr user Muffet

The agrifood industry is in a period of transition, according to the Australian Workforce and Productivity Agency’s Food and beverage workforce study, and as such the industry needs to hire skilled workers to grow new export markets in the Asian region.

AWPA Chair Phillip Bullock said the industry still faced significant challenges and that the future lies in finding new customers in the rapidly growing and highly competitive Asian markets.

“The ongoing restructure of the industry resulting in larger farms and the growing use of new technologies in the agriculture and food processing sectors is also requiring workers to have higher level skills,” said Mr. Bullock in a media release from the AWPA.

“Growing skills will require attention and focus as, currently, less than 40 per cent of workers in agriculture and fishing, and 45 per cent in food processing, have a post-school qualification, compared to Australia’s all-industries average of 62 per cent.”

The food and beverage processing sector is the largest in Australian manufacturing in terms of employment. The industry employs approximately 553,000 people and generates around four per cent of Australia’s GDP and 11.5 per cent of the value of exports.

The Food and beverage workforce study which was developed with industry and education stakeholders, recommends several strategies to build a skilled and innovative workforce.

Among them, a more coordinated national leadership to drive the agrifood industry workforce development agenda. The study recommends that a single body be given the responsibility to bring together representatives of industry, governments, employees and the tertiary education sector, to provide leadership on skills and workforce development for the agrifood industry.

The study also recommends developing and using the skills of the existing workforce, and increasing the number of workers with post-school qualifications. It also advises employers to invest in training and increase industry involvement to ensure that education and training is industry-relevant.

AWPA worked closely with the National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) to develop the report and its recommendations.

“People are the agricultural sector’s greatest resource, and ensuring we have a strong and sustainable workforce into the future is a priority, not only for the NFF and farmers, but also for the wider agricultural sector, as identified in our Blueprint for Australian Agriculture,” said NFF CEO Matt Linnegar who welcomed the release of the study.