Bringing training to the ag industry

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Photo of AgSkilled project officer Claudia Vicary

AgSkilled project officer Claudia Vicary believes training is empowering for the individual and can drive productivity and profitability gains on-farm.

PHOTO: Cox Inall Communications

Training delivery

To gain AgSkilled endorsement, registered training organisations (RTOs) must hold a current Smart and Skilled contract with the NSW Department of Industry and undergo a rigorous review by the AgSkilled management committee. RTOs must demonstrate their industry knowledge and linkages with the NSW cotton and grains industries, along with the quality of their training.

A young woman with a steadfast commitment to and firsthand understanding of the benefits of training and education is the ‘front person’ for an innovative new program designed to deliver training to the agricultural workforce across New South Wales.

The AgSkilled training strategy came into effect on 1 July 2017 and represents a $14.7 million investment by the NSW Government into training for the state’s cotton and grains industries.

The funding was allocated following a joint application by Cotton Australia and the GRDC, and will subsidise a broad range of vocational training for the agricultural workforce.

AgSkilled project officer Claudia Vicary has a rural background, hands-on experience working on-farm and has completed a
Bachelor of Agriculture at the University of New England.

She is the primary contact point for growers, agricultural industry workers, industry stakeholders and registered training organisations (RTOs) interested in further training.

“Willingness to learn and having the opportunity to access training is empowering for individuals and at a farm business level can really drive the productivity and profitability of a business,” Ms Vicary says.

“In essence, training – formal or otherwise – underpins all aspects of agriculture. It can develop farm businesses and assist with employee career progression and staff retention on-farm.”

The first training programs under the initiative were launched in July 2017 following a grassroots survey of grains and cotton industries employers and employees to assess training needs across regional NSW.

Ms Vicary, who grew up on her family’s mixed-farming operation at Barretts Creek, in northern NSW, says she is committed to getting the AgSkilled training message out to those working on the land.

Part of the AgSkilled brief is to deliver industry-identified, accredited training to regional and rural areas, with courses ranging from drone operation to integrated pest control, welding, basic machinery maintenance and commodity marketing.

“AgSkilled is committed to bringing the training that employers, employees and those keen to get a start in the agricultural sector need, to regional and remote areas that may not have offered these learning opportunities in the past,” Ms Vicary says.

“The program is about driving the productivity, profitability and competitiveness of the cotton and grains industries by developing a workforce capable of managing current and future challenges.”

GRDC senior regional manager north Jan Edwards says the AgSkilled initiative will provide new pathways for those involved in the grains industry to improve their skill sets and will play a pivotal role in attracting new people to the sector.

“AgSkilled will help ensure that growers and those working in the grains industry have access to the best education and training opportunities,” she says.

The key aims of AgSkilled are to:

  • drive the productivity, profitability and competitiveness of the cotton and grains industries by developing a workforce capable of managing current and future challenges;
  • cement the cotton and grains industries as employers of choice by creating clearly defined career pathways; and
  • ensure training is relevant, current and meets industry needs.

Subsidised training

The AgSkilled strategy delivers training across four pillars of industry: safety, production, technology and business.

AgSkilled can partially subsidise full qualifications (Certificate I through to Advanced Diploma level) found on the NSW Skills List, and can fully subsidise part qualifications (units of competency taken from full qualifications on the NSW Skills List) for eligible applicants.

The NSW Skills List is updated annually and includes qualifications in agribusiness, agriculture, business, engineering, irrigation, human resources, leadership and management.

The fully subsidised short courses that can be drawn from these full qualifications are very broad.

The training topics include:

  • safety (forklift, quad bike, and workplace health and safety);
  • production (including agronomy, soils, nutrition and pest management);
  • technology (including precision agriculture technology, and analysing and implementing data); and
  • business (including business management, staff management, leadership and communication).

AgSkilled allows for a flexible approach to training, with projects customisable to meet the needs of individuals and businesses.


AgSkilled-subsidised training is available to those with a genuine interest in the NSW cotton or grains industries.

This includes farm owners and managers, staff, contractors, consultants, researchers, industry professionals and new industry entrants.

More information:

Claudia Vicary
0409 043 774

NSW Department of Industry: Smart and Skilled

See our story on grower Josh Walker, who makes it a priority to attend workshops and training from his property at Cowra, in central west New South Wales: Training vital for agriculture.