Generation next

By Chris Thomson | posted on July 18, 2018

ONE third of surveyed secondary school students say they have no knowledge of available careers in agriculture, while only 18 per cent say they know a ‘ fair bit’ or ‘a lot’.

A recent survey of 500 secondary school students across Western Australia undertaken on behalf of Manjimup Shire shows that 56 per cent of respondents who thought a farming career was out of the question do so because they are not from a farming background.

Manjimup Shire President Paul Omodei says the research is unique in that it asks young people what they think of agriculture and what the industry needs to change to attract young people to explore careers and enter the workforce.

“A career in agriculture has a lot to offer, graduates are in high demand, salaries are increasing and technology is taking off but many secondary school students don’t even know the industry exists,” Cr Omodei says.

“What this report tells us is how young people find information about careers and what materials will make them take a closer look at agriculture.”

The report notes that in many students’ minds a career in agriculture is not just a career but a lifestyle change, with 28 per cent of respondents concerned they would have to move from friends and family.

On the upside, 20 per cent of students who said they would consider an agriculture career did so because they liked animals.

Improving people’s lives, and an interesting work environment were the next most common reasons, at 18 per cent a piece.

One young man who has no doubt he wants to be a farmer is Patrick Swallow who is working at the robotic dairy and with beef cattle at WA College of Agriculture Denmark while on holidays from his Bachelor of Agribusiness course at Curtin University in Perth.

Mr Swallow, pictured, a budding fourth-generation Denmark farmer, is a former student of the college who started studying there in Year 10.

“I suppose when I was younger, I looked at the police force or being a mechanic, but I always knew I was going to take over the farm one day,” he says.

“I always wanted to do it, but Mum and Dad never forced the farm on me.”

Mr Swallow said he would encourage any high school student to check out the Ag college system.

“It’s changed my life,” he said.

“Earlier in high school I probably wasn’t quite as academic or driven to do well but when I came here I was actually genuinely interested in it.”

Aside from one day taking the reins at the nearby family farm, Mr Swallow also aspires to become a teacher at the college.

Photo: Chris Thomson