Agricultural Education-Opportunity or Crisis?
by John Mason November 2007
The Agriculture Industry Needs to Wake Up! …Education Crisis Looming
Agriculture & Horticulture Education faces a serious skills shortage over the next decade.
• Over 50,000 people have left the Industry (Reported by Agrifoods Skills Council Conference, in Sydney, Sept 07)
• 123,000 Jobs are to be created over the next 6 yrs (Reported in University of Sydney Study published 18/10/07).
• Enrolments in Undergraduate courses is in decline.
• Courses being offered in Australia are declining (with other odd exception: refer editorial of Australian Horticulture magazine, September 2007)
• Public perceptions of the industry are very negative, partly due to drought, partly due to lack of effective action by the industry.
• The credentials of teaching staff in courses has lowered over the past few decades
• The significance of science and plant identification has diminished in some if not most courses.
One would be forgiven for predicting that industry is facing inevitable oblivion except for two inescapable facts:
1/ We all have to eat, and without local horticulture and agriculture industries, food costs increase, and quality decreases.
2/ Horticulture and Agriculture are unavoidably linked to environmental quality; and without a quality environment everyone suffers!
What’s the Answer?
• Industry must be more effective in changing public (and political) attitudes.
• Politicians and the public must be more receptive to the messages from industry.
• Better incentives for people to study & work in horticulture and agriculture.
• The quality of education needs to be improved at vocational level, with far greater emphasis on foundation science & problem solving skills.
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