Budding high schoolers to be the next crop of farmers
A local high school in Mansfield, Victoria is knocking off two birds with one stone through its successful agriculture program inspiring a new generation of farmers.
For a number of farming communities across the country, the challenges posed by both an ageing population and difficulties attracting younger generations into agribusiness is a source of real anxiety. The Pre-Ag program at Mansfield Secondary College though is meeting these head on. Since it begun, it has inspired 5 times as many students to study agriculture related courses at university, and twenty times as many completing a Certificate II in Primary Industries.
Through engagement with local farmers, primary producers and TAFE, as well as some creative scheduling, students are not only given hands on experience, but exposed to pathways and careers within agriculture and land management industries with qualifications to match.
Over the year long course, students spend their first semester learning a range of industry skills like animal husbandry, vaccinating, hydroponics and horticulture among others as well as important communication and work ethic skills. In the second semester these skills are put into practice through work placements to build experience in real world settings. For completing the course students receive a Certificate II in agriculture.
Before Pre-Ag, Mansfield College had only 2 students in in 5 years who had undertaken a qualification in primary industries: since then:
- 75% of students enrolled in the course received a Certificate II in Agriculture
- 26% of students who completed the course enrolled in further industry courses
- By 2015, students going on to tertiary study in agriculture and horticulture had increased by 1400%
Born out of sheer passion for agriculture and teaching, founder of the program Julie Aldous says she was all too aware of the lack of opportunities for young people interested in pursuing careers in agriculture.
“We strive to attract keen and proficient contributors to agriculture. We believe that our young people can be those people, given the opportunity to experience rural industries. Such career choices have barely been on the radar in many communities but that is changing.” Julie Aldous, PRE-Ag founder
The results speak for themselves, yet one of the most rewarding outcomes of the program has been opening students eyes to careers they didn’t know were there to begin with.
“It was the best experience I’ve ever had at school… Without the exposure to different sectors in Agriculture through Pre-Ag I had never understood the scope and opportunities that were available to me, especially as a female. ” Mikaela, former Pre-Ag student
Off the back of this program, former student Mikaela went on to study an Ag Science degree as a Horizon Scholar at Charles Sturt University despite having no experience in agriculture before year 9.
These success stories haven’t gone unnoticed either. Further rollout of the “Mansfield Model” has become a key recommendation of the 2013 the Victorian Parliamentary into an ageing farming sector, while the Local Learning and Employment Network has commissioned Julie to create a formal education package.
Julie herself though is refusing to rest on her laurels and continues to look for opportunities to help other schools implement similar programs.
To find out more information about the program contact
Julie Aldous, AgriBusiness Facilitator
Agriculture Workforce Development (AWD)
[email protected] | 0412 640 146