Alice Springs horse and cattle enthusiast, Taylor Nietschke, drove her Kia Rio for three days through the Northern Territory and western Queensland to be one of the 25 students ready to start learning at the Longreach Pastoral College on Monday morning.
Her tyres might be worn down but her enthusiasm to keep working with animals is pumped right up.
As a previous student at the college – she completed the horse course under master trainer, John Arnold, in 2015 – she knows what’s available as she pursues her goal to be a station owner.
“I loved the horse course, considering being 15 years old, it was a shock to come here and learn everything in six months,” she said. “I thought it would be good to finish all my certificates here – that way I’d have more experience.”
Taylor plans on doing both the northern beef course and the diploma of livestock management at Longreach before studying equine chiropractics in another sphere.
It’s her philosophy that “nobody really knows everything”, saying “the more you learn, the better you get at life.”
Another of the new Longreach college students getting ready to add cattle husbandry to his extensive resume that includes mechanics, diesel fitting, refrigeration, farm butchering, irrigation and mustering, is Calliope’s Stewart Vesel.
He was at Sunday night’s meet and greet with his parents Kylie and Michael Vesel and said he was very keen to get started.
“I never would have thought of it because I didn’t have the money to do it, but now I’m taking the opportunity offered by the government subsidy to attend,” he explained.
College board member, Tony Rayner, said the students had come to a wonderful facility with a 50 year history that had sent experienced graduates around Australia and internationally.
“We’re in the middle of a drought as everyone can see, but 50mm over college country in the last couple of days is a great way to start the year,” he said, adding that the new students were in a rock solid career choice by choosing pathways with beef, horse and sheep interest.
Tony said enrolment numbers were similar to last year and balanced evenly between 15 and 25.
“The numbers have been back for the past few years but we’re happy with these numbers, and on top of that we’ve got all our short courses,” he said.
The most subscribed courses at Longreach and Emerald this year are the northern beef industries program, which provides work experience with some of Australia’s largest pastoral companies, and Access Ag, the program at the Emerald Agricultural College that combines years 11 and 12 with agricultural studies.
QATC CEO, Mark Tobin, acknowledged that while student numbers are down on previous years, significant influences such as ongoing drought conditions were making it difficult for farming families to send students to live away from home.
“Aside from economic influences, there is also change in the demand for the traditional model of training that the agricultural colleges were built on.
“Vocational education is now just one step in an education pathway that takes students from school through to the tertiary sector.
“Today’s aspiring agriculturalists have plenty of opportunities to hit their intended career target by picking and choosing from all educational offerings available, and QATC remains a valued option for agricultural skills training.”
There are more than 1640 unique students enrolled at QATC so far in the 2017-18 financial year and the enrolments are expected to continue to flow in.