Year 12 graduates are being encouraged to consider working their gap year on an Australian farm.
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Gap year gain: Ann Gardiner hopes the new gap year scheme will open up broader career choices for students. Photo by Luke Hemer

There are expected to be jobs available in northern Victoria and the Southern Riverina under a program created by the NFF and the Federal Government.

Through the program, called AgCAREERSTART, participants will be employed under award wages on qualified farms for up to 12 months. Participants will receive safety training, on-farm induction and VET scholarships to upskill on the job. Participants will also be able to access government-funded relocation assistance.

Farmers have told Country News they are wanting to find enthusiastic workers and introduce students to the range of jobs that are available in agriculture.

Bamawm farmer Ann Gardiner wants to see more young people get the opportunity to experience the careers that are possible throughout the farming industry.

“We employed a Year 12 student last year before this scheme came along,” she said.

“We think it worked really well.

“There is a critical shortage of skilled people in the whole supply chain, from farms through to agricultural services and technical professions.”

Mrs Gardiner and husband Mark have more than 1000 cows in milk production and employ 10 people.

“We hope this program will encourage more interest,” Mrs Gardiner said.

“We provide on-the-job training, and we can show them the opportunities that are around. And we won’t overwork them; young people have to have a life.”

Mrs Gardiner said the engagement also had a two-way impact.

“We need the new ideas and fresh perspectives from young people,” she said.

Mrs Gardiner was keen for people to get their own first-hand experience of farming rather than relying on negative second-hand information.

Dhurringile dairy farmer Tony McCarthy said the uptake of technology on modern farms created a need for people who understood the way programs worked and could quickly apply them to management.

“And if we can encourage new young people to enter the workforce, that’s going to be good for the industry,” he said.

Mr McCarthy said agriculture sometimes did not have a good image and young people might be influenced by negative media stories.

Mr McCarthy, whose business milks about 550 cows, has applied to host a gap-year employee.

Applications for farmer hosts and participants are now open, and the first on-farm placements for AgCAREERSTART will start in March.

As one generation of dairy farmers see retirement on the horizon, who are the next generation farmers taking over the responsibility of feeding the world?

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