The Australian agriculture, fisheries and forestry sectors produce world-class food and fibre, contributes $86 billion to the national economy, and aims to achieve a $100 billion farm gate output by 2030.
The agricultural industry employs around 280,000 people and is a major source of jobs in rural and regional Australia.
One of the biggest challenges facing the agriculture industry is securing an appropriate workforce. This involves a whole-of-government approach to invest in the skills of Australians, create as many opportunities in the regions as possible, support secure pathways for overseas workers, and ensure workers are protected.
Find out how the Australian Government is supporting the agricultural industry to better skill, attract, protect, and retain its workforce.
The Australian Government is committed to building a bigger, better trained and more productive workforce, including for the agriculture sector. The Jobs and Skills Summit, held on 1-2 September 2022, resulted in multiple whole-of-economy measures that will benefit the agriculture sector in the immediate and longer term. These include:
- Partnering with state and territory governments to accelerate the delivery of 465,000 fee free TAFE places, with 180,000 to be delivered next year. A total of 13,200 places will be dedicated to agriculture.
- An increase in the permanent Migration Program ceiling to 195,000 in 2022-23, including 34,000 places specifically for regional visas within the skill stream.
- $42.2 million for the Department of Home Affairs to recruit 500 staff to address the visa backlog.
- A one-off income credit so that Age Pensioners who want to work can earn an additional $4000 over this financial year without it affecting their pension.
- Increasing the duration of post study work rights of international students in areas of verified skills shortage to strengthen the pipeline of skilled labour in Australia
- Reforms to the VET framework to improve flexibility through micro-credentials and better inclusion of work-based learning.
- A review of migration settings such as labour market testing and skilled migration occupation lists. Information on the review can be found at the Department of Home Affairs website.
The Government also continues to implement the range of measures under the AgAttract and AgFair initiatives, which support the sector to enhance attraction, skilling and retention.
The Government’s AgATTRACT measures aim to shift perceptions of agriculture work and showcase the diverse career opportunities on offer through a range of programs.
The AgCAREERSTART pilot program is a structured employment program to help young Australians start a career in agriculture in their gap year. Read more about AgCAREERSTART or register your interest at agcareerstart.com.au
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The AgUP grants program provides grant funding to three successful applicants to support industry-led projects that create opportunities for attraction, retention, upskilling, training, mentoring and career progression for the agricultural workforce. All projects run from 2021-22 to 2024-25.
Community Perceptions and Worker Experiences Project
The research project undertaken by AgriFutures explores community views of working in the agriculture, fisheries and forestry industries, and the impact worker experiences have on attraction and retention. It will develop a modern understanding of agriculture and its workforce to demonstrate the broad range of experiences and opportunities on offer across the sector.
A forum was held in August 2022 with industry to discuss preliminary findings and a final report will be made available in 2023.
National Careers Institute Career Mapping Project
We provided $2.7 million funding to the National Careers Institute to build an interactive career map on the YourCareer website, showcasing the breath and diversity of occupations in the agriculture, fisheries and forestry sector.
The career map will increase the awareness of traditional, non-traditional, new and emerging agricultural occupations, provide information on the transferability of occupations and skill sets to careers in agriculture and highlight the broad diversity of people that have forged interesting and successful careers as part of the agricultural workforce.
AgFair supports agricultural employers to adopt best practice modern workforce management and planning to attract and retain employees. This includes the procurement of practical resources to support employers to implement modern workforce management and planning practices.
The Fair Farms initiative supports an industry-led training and certification scheme that aims to foster fair employment practices and reduce the risk of worker exploitation in the Australian horticultural industry. More information about Fair Farms can be found here.
Modern Workforce Management and Planning Practices
To support agricultural employers and businesses to build and improve workforce management and planning practices and skills, the project produced case studies and easy to use tools which provide practical support for employers, particularly small to medium-sized enterprises in the horticulture sector.
Watch the champion farmer videos and access the tools here.
The Pacific Australia Labour Mobility (PALM) scheme remains a key program for meeting agricultural workforce shortages and allows eligible Australian businesses to hire unskilled, low-skilled, and semi-skilled workers from nine Pacific islands and Timor-Leste when there are not enough local workers available. The government is working closely with the Pacific and the sector to strengthen and expand the scheme, with $67.5 million invested in the October 2022-23 Budget.
For more information visit the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade PALM website.