Ag science graduates may turn their back on agribusiness

The number of students graduating from agricultural science courses continues to decline, and those who do aren’t necessarily going on to work on farms.

“We are an urbanised population, so there is no real agricultural communication into schools, and accordingly school leavers are not interested in agriculture as a career; it’s as simple as that,” says Agricultural Appointments Managing Director Dr Johnson. “What roles do you hear of all the time? You hear about urban-based roles – so they don’t know about the great careers that exist in agriculture. In many ways, these survey results reflect some of that problem.”

In an Agricultural Appointments survey of agricultural science graduates and soon-to-be graduates, insights about career aspirations were revealed. 81 students who were enrolled in agricultural science at one of the major universities in Australia were asked a series of questions such as whether they intend to pursue a career in agriculture and what field of work they were intending to pursue.

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Ray Johnson also says that graduate numbers can be hard to quantify in terms of the skills shortages we have in Australia. “There are very big shortages in terms of agronomists, skill shortages in terms of technical animal science people. A big thing that came out of our survey is just looking at the total number of agricultural science people that graduate, is not going to tell you how many people end up in those two sectors. If they’re in the banking sector they are not on farm.”

Higher education is also off the agenda. “The number of agricultural science graduates going on to higher degrees continues to decline. It’s probably that research and development opportunities at universities in general have declined but I also think people are seeing that the higher degrees are not necessary; they want to get out into the workforce.”

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