By Ron Maxwell - CEO
The Australian agrifoods industry, which encompasses food production, processing, and logistics, (essentially every step from paddock to plate), is worth $200 billion and employs around 900,000 Australians. And this number is only set to grow, as the Agrifoods Industry Skills Council works with the federal government to create 600,000 new training placements across the industry.
Unlike many of our other large-scale employers, agrifood operations aren’t typically centred in major cities – they are right here, in our regions. With many regional areas experiencing higher unemployment rates than our cities, it may be surprising to note that there are skills shortages across this growing industry.
In Central West New South Wales alone, we have a number of large-scale producers and processors, including Moxey Farms, the largest single-site dairy farm in the Southern Hemisphere and Cowra Meat Processors, which employs around 200 people. Many of these job opportunities are given to transient workers, like backpackers and even 'grey nomads', because it's increasingly difficult to source local workers.
With so many jobs available across the country in our regional and remote areas, the agrifoods sector is well place to respond to the challenges of regional population decline – if we can encourage more people to take a look at the opportunities.
Whether you are just starting out in your career, looking for a new challenge, or transitioning to a new career, now might be the time to consider a career in our growing agrifoods sector.
It's a diverse industry
Some of this, in my opinion, relates to the misconception that all of the jobs are menial. While it's true that you do need a level of physical strength and a strong stomach to work in the boning room of an abattoir, for example, there are many jobs that require different skills, including maths, science, and computing.
Like every industry, automation, robotics and technology are playing their part in agrifoods too. So much so, that it has given rise to a sub-industry, called Agtech. As the production lines in our food processing plants become increasingly automated, there are opportunities for technicians and engineers. On our farms, growing crops and raising cattle and sheep have become just as much about the science as the labour, with a whole host of jobs focused on making the process more efficient and more environmentally friendly.
The mix of skilled and unskilled employment demand in the industry makes it a great opportunity for lots of different types of people. There are opportunities for those with qualifications and a higher level of education, as well as for those looking to get a start or forge a new career.
Meat processing offers an opportunity
For some, meat processing qualifications can be a great way to get involved in a regional industry. Across Australia, there are skills shortages in the industry, and we are seeing a decline in the number of people undertaking these qualifications. This is leading to a significant increase in job opportunities and potentially even wage growth, as demands outstrips supply.
Working in a meat processing plant is not going to suit everyone. It can involve heavy lifting, and of course, it involves working with animal carcases, something that is not for everyone. If you do have the fortitude to work in this environment, it can be a great place for those without higher education to get a start in a career that can lead to stable employment and a good salary, with an average salary of $1202 per week.
Powered by sustainability
With the current concerns about environmental issues and global population growth, sustainable food production is a hot topic and a trend that is bringing a host of new job opportunities. Biodynamic and sustainable farming practices are offering new opportunities to join the agrifoods industry while helping Australia become greener. We are even seeing an increase in the production of meat alternatives, an industry that is predicted to employ more 6,000 full-time workers by 2030.
We will always need to produce food for both local and exports markets, so it's an industry that will continue to grow. There are numerous vocational qualifications that can enable you to find employment in this booming industry. If you are interested in finding out more about these opportunities, I encourage you to contact our Training Services team on 1300 4 VERTO.