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Ag graduates urged to swap farm work for the classroom

Schools across Australia are searching for agriculture teachers to guide the next generation of skilled workers, who will help build a $100 billion industry.



Agriculture graduates are being urged to consider working in the classroom, as a shortage of teachers raises concerns about the future of the skilled farming workforce.


There were 93 Australian schools looking for agriculture teachers between January and October, according to research for the Royal Agricultural Society of NSW Foundation.


Jim Pratley, emeritus professor of agriculture at Charles Sturt University, said the shortage was concerning, as teachers were key to building the major industry.


"Teachers are one of the greatest influences on what the careers might be for students to follow," he said.


"Agriculture teachers are the conduit to a bigger, better and more highly trained agricultural workforce to provide a secure food supply for decades to come."

Many schools are teaching agriculture without a trained agriculture teacher.


The sector, which employs 240,000 people and is worth more than $71 billion, is working towards becoming a $100 billion industry by 2030.


Primary Industries Education Foundation chief executive Luciano Mesiti said as older teachers retired, there were not enough qualified candidates to fill their places.


"It's a big crisis....there (are) a lot of schools teaching agriculture without a trained agriculture teacher."


The experts said the 18-month masters of teaching, which replaced a six-month graduate diploma, could be a deterrent and teacher training should be more streamlined.


Scott Graham, head of agriculture at Barker College, in Sydney's north, said new teachers had the opportunity to change perceptions about the industry.


"Agriculture attracts a lot of the students who are going to drop out of school before they reach the HSC because it's positioned as that easier subject," Mr Graham said.


"Prospective teachers take on board that societal narrative rather than create a new narrative about it." 


The Royal Agricultural Society of NSW Foundation has set up a new program for graduates who want to pursue a career in teaching, offering five $10,000 scholarships for post-graduate study.


Foundation manager Cecilia Logan said the program aimed to address the specialist teacher shortage.


"By improving the availability and quality of agricultural education in secondary schools and nurturing a workforce that is equipped with knowledge and skills ... we can ensure the long-term sustainability of the agricultural industry," she said.


The scholarships are open to NSW and ACT graduates until January 21.


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