Pathways into Agriculture

Pathways into Agriculture

Key Points

  • Increased awareness of 300 employers of the opportunities to build their businesses through employing school based trainees.
  • Engaged with 27 high schools from Taree to Woolgoolga, promoting career opportunities in agriculture.
  • Surveyed 179 students of agricultural studies in the region to assess their career motivations.
  • Identified that only a small percentage of Indigenous students are engaging in Agriculture, Primary Industries and Horticulture subjects.
  • Identified issues and challenges in the NSW School Based Traineeship model and outlined potential solutions.
  • Created a Database of 265 Agricultural courses ranging from one day ProFarm competency based courses, up to and including Masters Degrees.


The Agricultural Pathways Program set out to connect unemployed persons with the trade skills, qualifications and experience they need to gain a career in agriculture, horticulture and food production within the local area.

At the same time, it aimed to fill a growing shortage of skilled labour in this industry across the geographic area from Taree to Coffs Harbour and see if employment trends being touted in the media actually equate to jobs on the Mid North Coast.

As the research, surveys and community engagement concluded the first thing that became apparent was that, while nationally research suggests that there are “6 jobs for every University graduate in agriculture” this is not the case on the Mid North Coast.

However, the aging workforce in rural production has opened up other opportunities as contractors for more specialised jobs. There is a need for a skilled agricultural and horticultural workforce for harvesting and production roles as well as on farm management roles.

Our surveys, and advice from teachers, indicate that High School Students are enrolling into agriculture and primary industries studies in increasing numbers. Many of these students indicate that they are taking these courses for enjoyment and interest, but haven’t considered food production as a career.

Through comparative surveys (as shown in graph below) it was clear that many students were not aware of the careers and courses available to them through agriculture and food production. The students thought that the only roles in food production were as a farmer or farm owner, they had not considered the many contractors and other contributors to food products.

The second survey (represented in orange below) conducted after students had been presented with information from the Agricultural Pathways Program showed that student awareness of career opportunities in agriculture and food production had more than doubled. The number of students interested in further training in agriculture also rose significantly after being provided with information regarding career progression and locally available educational opportunities.

The surveys also revealed that an extremely small number of Indigenous students were enrolling in agriculture and primary industries studies. The Agricultural Pathways Project sought to address this by designing a culturally significant presentation for delivery to Indigenous students, to encourage enrollment in agriculture and primary industries studies.

One of the most surprising revelations of the project was the groundswell of support from farmers for school based traineeships in agriculture. This was for a number of reasons, but the most illuminating are the farmers desire to share their knowledge with the farmers of the future; and the most common comment, that they wished that there was a similar program available to themselves and their children when they were at school.

During the administration of the first of the school based traineeships arranged by the project, some systematic difficulties and concerns were identified. RDAMNC has campaigned for recognition of this as a matter which affects the uptake of school based traineeships and has highlighted these issues with the relevant departments and policy makers. We will continue to oversee progress of these reforms.


Click here to read the 1. Pathways into Agriculture Report – Jun 2016

You can also read the Tertiary Course List for agricultural studies in the region (as of June 2016).

Or download the class materials we produced for high school agriculture students which accompanied a presentation about careers in agriculture: