The Australian dairy workforce is over 46,000 people strong, with career opportunities growing across the supply chain.
Investment in the next generation of the dairy workforce is a high priority for the industry.
This was made clear during consultations for the Australian Dairy Plan last year, with the second commitment of the plan being to attract and support new entrants, and to build industry capacity.
Dairy Australia's managing director, David Nation, says that Dairy Australia and industry partners are looking for opportunities to develop and pilot new initiatives and to update existing initiatives to grow the industry's future workforce.
"One of the messages that came out strongly during Dairy Plan consultations, and continues to come up as we talk about the future of our industry, is how we support the next generation of dairy farmers," he said.
"As an industry, we have a fantastic workforce development program and a strong Young Dairy Network, but we need to look at where the gaps are and how we can start to address them.
"We're talking to the dairy community, education providers, industry partners, and government about opportunities to work together to attract people to dairy, to enhance the pathways into the industry, to upskill our existing workforce and to provide career opportunities for our farmers."
These initiatives are being delivered nationally through schools, universities, training organisations, regional extension programs and partner organisations.
Secondary school students studying science are getting involved in industry workshops through DairyBio's Getting into Genes program.
The program, hosted at AgriBio, takes participants through hands-on activities to demonstrate key concepts within real-life examples of bioscience research and its application to agriculture.
Get into Genes is focused on the delivery of inspiring, meaningful opportunities for school students and community groups.
Co-director of DairyBio and director of major innovation projects for Dairy Australia, Kevin Argyle, says it is the practical experience that makes the Get into Genes program so unique and so successful.
"The program allows students to come into our research facility and see the science that they find exciting applied to agriculture," he said.
"This exposure to world leading research facilities allows the students to experience what most people only get to read about in textbooks - things like DNA extraction, DNA sequencing and gel electrophoresis plus selective breeding using phenotype and genotype data for both plants and animals."
More than 4000 people, including students and teachers, participated in the program last year, which addresses national objectives for a scientifically literate community and a strong, sustainable science and agriculture workforce.
"Nationally it is recognised that we need to encourage school students to pursue careers in STEM and DairyBio is perfectly placed to showcase the cutting edge application of science, technology, engineering and maths to agriculture, and inspire students into considering agricultural research careers," Mr Argyle said.
Get into Genes is a part of the 'Bioscience and Community' initiative, a result of over 10 years' collaboration with university, research and industry partners.
DairyBio is a co-investor in this initiative funded by Agriculture Victoria.
Find out more about Get into Genes at getintogenes.com.au
Dairy Australia's Dairy Learning Plan scholarship program is giving undergraduate students with a career interest in dairy farming a unique opportunity to develop skills, capability and professional networks for farm management.
The program, run in partnership with Marcus Oldham College over three years, connects participants with the dairy community through involvement in industry programs and on-farm experience.
For Jim Conn, a participant in the Dairy Learning Plan program commencing last year, the course content complements his work on-farm in north-west Tasmania.
"We all love working in the paddock, but creating that relationship between the paddock and the office to grow is what we want in our career progression," Mr Conn said.
"What works for me is setting goals and planning ways to achieve these goals. Comparing my progress against benchmarks is helpful to indicate if I am on track, and where more focus is required."
Learning from the sector's experts, students complete a range of business and agriculture subjects, developing their management skills and critical thinking to set themselves up for farm management.
"Young people in my situation love to be involved in the business and the planning of the business. We are proactive about improvement and profitability to achieve maximum return. In my opinion, improving and building is the best form of satisfaction in my career," Mr Conn said.
Dairy Australia is providing support for three students to commence the program in 2021.
Applications are now open through Marcus Oldham, marcusoldham.vic.edu.au
Dairy Australia is currently developing a Dairy Farm Induction Program, with support from the Victorian government as part of the Agriculture Workforce Plan to ensure the state's agriculture sector has the workforce it needs to continue operating.
The program will help to rapidly upskill new workers, make training more accessible and support farmers with inducting new employees.
The initiative will build on existing industry-specific resources around workforce recruitment, staff management and farm safety available to employers from The People in Dairy website.
Some of the industry's most popular extension programs are now being offered remotely, creating new opportunities for dairy farmers, service providers and industry experts across Australia to connect and share information from their farm.
In development since last year, online extension programs were quickly taken up due to COVID-19 social distancing requirements, with discussion groups, Focus Farms, Young Dairy Network activities, seasonal and business updates and training programs all being moved to web-based platforms.
Dairy Australia's lead in extension delivery, Sarah Thompson, said the reception to the online programs had been extremely positive.
"Farmers across all dairying regions have connected into programs, sessions and discussion group meetings that our regions are running," she said.
"They are particularly liking the convenience of being able to attend a session or meeting without having to leave their farm or commit additional time to travelling to and from sessions."
Programs are being delivered on virtual conferencing application, Zoom, alongside Dairy Australia's online learning platform, Enlight, which hosts resources, instructive videos, demonstrations and discussion forums.
Remote training programs are also giving employers new tools to induct and upskill staff.
One such program is Milking and Mastitis Management, which includes the fundamentals of the industry's Cups On Cups Off (CoCo) course - bringing the cows in, putting cups on, taking cups off, post-milking teat disinfection and detecting clinical mastitis.
Participants can complete the program through online modules and practise in the dairy with an on-farm coach.
Expressions of Interest for Milking and Mastitis Management are now open through regional extension teams, for dairy farmers keen to bring new staff up to speed on essential procedures in the dairy.
Other farm business and animal management courses will be launching soon.
To find out more visit dairyaustralia.com.au/c19extension
Dairy farmers in NSW are contributing to a new project aimed at improving engagement and retention of staff in dairy farm businesses through a new extension offering in on-farm leadership.
The Dairy Progression Framework project is supported by the NSW government's Dairy Industry Fund and managed by DairyNSW with support from Murray Dairy, Subtropical Dairy and Dairy Australia.
Initial stages of the project have identified gaps in current leadership training and development, where focus is predominantly being placed on industry and advocacy leaders and missing what's considered 'on-farm leadership'.
Existing research with employers and employees has helped to identify leadership traits considered important to employee satisfaction and retention.
Based on this research, an opportunity exists to develop a leadership program for employers and managers looking to enhance this skillset.
The development of the program is currently underway, to be launched to NSW dairy farmers in early 2021.
For more information, contact DairyNSW.
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