Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Farming fun fact of the day

Last year in New Zealand 100 students graduated in agriculture, but more than 2000 creative and performing arts students, aka waitpersons.

Jacqueline Rowarth, Waikato University’s new professor of agribusiness, warns in today’s Waikato Times of a skills shortage in agriculture:
A shortage of young people training in agriculture at university level is reaching crisis levels, with not enough graduates available to fill jobs, Rowarth says. With more farmers reaching retirement age, the situation will only get worse if New Zealand does not focus on this important area, given that agriculture is the backbone of our economy.
The trend away from young Kiwis studying agriculture followed former Prime Minister Helen Clark’s high-profile promotion of the creative and performing arts as a career choice in the 1990s, Rowarth says.
“We had scholarships, the Peter Jackson effect and the knowledge wave, so we had a whole lot of young people going into the creative and performing arts. [. . .
Not having enough agriculture graduates to fill available jobs has seen the Government add agricultural science to the skilled migrant list, while graduates from other degrees struggle to find employment related to their studies.
Australia will start head-hunting our best young people if we don’t make studying and working in agriculture more attractive in New Zealand, Rowarth says.
“The Australians are going bananas, saying their agriculture skills shortage needs to be treated seriously. They need 4000 people for jobs in agriculture but are producing only 300 graduates, so guess where they’re going to get them from?” [. . .]
“We have bred a whole generation of people who want to save the world, but right now it’s easier to teach pollution than production. We could rename the study of agriculture ‘natural resource management’ or ‘sustainable food production’.
 “We should also be teaching our young people to consider where the jobs are. One of the greatest problems facing the world in the future is feeding the world. If you want to save the world and make a difference to your country, you should be studying agriculture.”


helenalex said...

I wonder what percentage of the retiring farmers had an agriculture degree.

Stephen Stratford said...

Vanishingly small, probably - when did Lincoln get going? But despite bodgies like the Crafars, farming is very science/maths-intensive now, and the people I know who farm are very educated, very focussed on genetics, biochemistry etc. It is a business, these people are world-class professionals, the sector is crucial to our economy - and it's also interesting. So it's weird that NZ doesn't encourage more of our bright young things into agriculture.

Meg said...

@ helenalex, yes probably few, but farming has changed a great deal and encompasses far more science and technology and requires a lot more business skills than in the past. Families are also smaller, with fewer sons/daughters that take up the family business of farming.