Spotlight on careers in a modern grains industry
GroundCover™ Issue: 101 | Author: Melissa Branagh-McConachy
Dynamic career opportunities in Australia’s grains industry are highlighted in a new publication that seeks to address the decline in agriculture teaching and falling undergraduate enrolments
Two young Australians keen to pursue careers in the grains industry are among an inspiring line-up of individuals profiled in a new publication that highlights opportunities and educational pathways in the food and fibre sector.
Researcher Aanandini Ganesalingam, who is completing a PhD at the University of Western Australia (UWA), and Lachlan Hunter, a Year 12 student at the WA College of Agriculture in Cunderdin, feature in Science, Taking You Places: Pathways for a dynamic career in Australia’s primary industries.
Launched by former deputy prime minister Tim Fischer at the recent AgriFood Skills Australia National Conference in Sydney, the publication profiles Primary Industry Centre for Science Education (PICSE) program graduates to illustrate career opportunities at all levels of the primary industries supply chain from the laboratory to the farm, including engineering, information technology, economics, global trade and marketing, and biological and environmental sciences.
Produced with support from the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry and AgriFood Skills Australia, the publication was released by PICSE – a national program supported by stakeholders, including the GRDC, which builds networks between school students, universities and teachers to meet demand for skilled professionals in Australia’s primary industries.
Although Aanandini studied science in Year 11, she was planning a career in law or journalism until she took part in the PICSE summer work placement program at UWA, which led to a Bachelor of Agricultural Science degree at the university.
“No one in my family was involved in agriculture in any way and when I started at university I was the only ‘city’ person in my class,” Aanandini says.
Assisted by a GRDC scholarship, she completed her honours year in 2009 and is now nearing the end of her PhD thesis on plant breeding, with aspirations to develop new varieties that are better adapted to the challenges of a changing climate.
Despite only being in Year 12, Lachlan already has a clear picture of his future in agriculture. He attributes this to his upbringing on a mixed-farming property at Bruce Rock, WA; a strong grounding in theoretical and practical knowledge acquired at secondary college; and his participation in the PICSE program.
Lachlan has always wanted to study agriculture, but says the PICSE program helped him to narrow his career goals to focus on plant production.
“Next year I hope to study Agricultural Science at UWA, followed by postgraduate study to become a plant breeder,” he says.
As a PICSE Ambassador, Lachlan promotes primary industries in science education and is passionate about extending its opportunities to young people from rural and remote areas.
Universities are producing about 700 agriculture graduates each year for a job market exceeding 4000 positions. PICSE’s national director, Associate Professor David Russell, says Australia’s capacity to achieve future food security will be compromised “without a stream of young Australians educated in the biosciences who can drive innovation and productivity growth”.
PICSE chair and chief scientist of WA, Professor Lyn Beazley, says a long-term approach is necessary to reverse the declining skills base in Australia’s primary industries.
“We must focus on a greater exposure to the primary industries at all levels of schooling: primary, secondary and tertiary,” she says.
Parliamentary Secretary for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Sid Sidebottom says the government’s support of PICSE is indicative of its commitment to build ties between schools and industry and to expose students directly to primary industries.
“We are committed to ensuring a future supply of highly skilled researchers, scientists and professionals that can meet our obligations,” Mr Sidebottom says.
Science, Taking You Places is available in print and electronic formats. It can be downloaded from the PICSE website (www.picse.net).
03 6430 4923
national strategic development manager, PICSE
0404 844 410
GRDC Project Code UT00019
Region National, South, West, North