Friday 5 August

Skilling – Growing future workforce skills in agriculture

Keynote speaker

Michael Hartman
Skills Impact

Michael has over 30 years in leadership roles in industry-based learning, skills, and VET. As the CEO of Skills Impact, one of 6 government funding Skills Service Organisations for the last 6 years and CEO of an Industry Skills Council for 10 years prior, he has had ongoing opportunities to oversee the development of industry-wide skills standards and qualifications, skills projects and annual industry-specific reports documenting trends in jobs and skills. Skills Impact works with industry and gathers vast amounts of information on skill needs and training solutions in Australia’s various grown and renewable resource industries, as represented by 12 Industry Reference Committees.

Attracting Talent with Quality Jobs
Labour and skill shortages are key issues not only for the Agriculture and Horticulture Sector, but for all industries in Australia. It has never been more important to improve our capacity to develop skills and manage people in this challenging environment. Industries and enterprises based in regional and rural Australia have unique aspects to their skill challenges. This presentation will cover one useful approach, the consideration of the jobs our industries or your enterprise creates and offers, the labour market as a “product”.  This shift in thinking leads us to consider what makes such a product desirable (or undesirable) to the consumer (the potential or existing employee) and what we need to do to make this particular “product” fit for service. For many, this requires a significant mindset adjustment but opens the door to considering a wider range of solutions to the current attraction and retention challenges.

Industry case studies & Panel session

Sandra Ireson
Hay Inc

Sandra Ireson owns and operates a beef cattle and sheep enterprise near Booligal NSW with her husband and three adult children. Growing up on a Merino sheep property on the Monaro, Sandra studied Agriculture before working in the veterinary and animal health industry. Sandra has a keen interest in developing pathways for younger generations to gain a start in primary industries. In 2014 she co-developed the Hay Inc. Rural Education Program to address the challenge of markedly reduced numbers of young people entering or staying in agriculturally dependent communities. Sandra was awarded 2017 NSW/ACT Agrifutures Rural Women’s Award, building on the success of the Hay Inc. Rural Education Program she has developed “Engage Ag” – creating opportunities for a career in agriculture – promoting the initiative to other rural communities and industry. She also is involved in advisory groups including the NSW DPI Tocal College, ICPA & a producer member of the Southern Australia Livestock Research Council regional committee.

The Success of the Hay Inc Rural Education Program
The presentation will outline the development and success of the Hay Inc. Rural Education Program and how it has delivered substantial benefits to the Hay district and agricultural industry since its inception in 2014. The training program consists of a range of short courses which involve practical training, delivered on rural properties throughout the Hay district. The training is delivered by a combination of industry volunteers, and qualified trainers who have extensive practical experience in primary production. The initiative has combined local landholders, volunteers, industry and government to develop the program, which also includes mentoring, networking and continued support to the Alumni. It has also raised the profile of the local ag industry, bought young people to the Hay district, and it has enriched the social fabric of the community and surrounding district.

Simone Parker

CHRRUP CEO Simone Parker has a passion for regional communities and progressing the opportunities available for the people who live and work in them. Simone works with her team to ensure CHRRUP fosters thriving and connected rural communities by offering resources that enhance agricultural enterprises. These initiatives have led to beneficial organisational progress in many agricultural businesses in the region. Simone’s long-standing connection to regional areas across the Northern Territory and Queensland is the driving force behind her interest in building strong, resilient and diverse communities. Her career has been focused on agricultural extension, business improvement and natural resource management. Simone has worked with the Northern Territory Department of Resources, Southern Gulf Catchments NRM group and as an associate with business consultancy firm Bush AgriBusiness. Simone holds a Bachelor of Business (Agricultural Commerce) and is an MBA candidate at CQ University.

LEADAg: Leading, Educating and Developing the next generation
LEADAg is a newly piloted program to boost introductory agricultural training in regional Queensland. The program was developed and facilitated by CHRRUP; a community-owned, central Queensland based profit-for-purpose organisation dedicated to advancing rural communities. Participation in the program provides young people with work ready skills and support from industry mentors. Not only do they benefit from the skills development but also build the confidence and capacity to choose a career in the agricultural industry. Ten students were chosen from almost 70 applicants to participate in the pilot program designed to deliver hands-on, practical training to prepare them for the workforce. The pilot ran for five full days in the first week of the April school holidays and was packed with sessions run by local industry mentors. The LEADAg pilot course was funded by the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries through the Queensland Agricultural Workforce Network.

Claudia Vicary
Cotton Australia

Claudia is employed as the Project Officer on the AgSkilled program, a $15million partnership between the NSW Government and industry to build workforce capacity though VET for NSW’s plant growing industries. Claudia works with industry endorsed training providers, Government and industry stakeholders to ensure the training delivered through the AgSkilled program is current, relevant and meets industry needs.

Alexa Hearn
Feedlot Careers & Training, Australia Feed lotters Association

Alexa joined the Australian Lot Feeders’ Association (ALFA) in February 2022. From growing up in the suburbs of Sydney, to pursuing her passion for the agriculture industry, Alexa has thrown herself at all challenges that have come her way. Prior to this role, Alexa spent seven years at leading agtech business AuctionsPlus, where she was responsible for running and coordinating everything from their weekly cattle and sheep auctions and various stud sales, to coaching the newly-accredited assessors on the platform. Now, Alexa is the Project Officer for ALFA’s Feedlot Careers, Development and Training platform ‘Feedlot TECH’. In this role, she works closely with industry experts to create online training courses for feedlot staff so they can not only obtain a better understanding of their industry, but also have access to tools to help further their feedlot career.

Opening the gate to feedlot industry careers
Feedlot TECH is an initiative of Australian Lot Feeders’ Association (ALFA), in collaboration with Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA), which aims to support and create a dynamic, engaged, and skilled workforce.  The Feedlot TECH Training Hub has been developed to provide practical, online training to help individuals learn and understand feedlot practices. Training and professional development courses are available to help take your feedlot knowledge and leadership skills to the next level.

Speakers – Tools and programs

Dane Ivicevic
UQ Skills

Dane Ivicevic is the Chief Executive Officer of UQ Skills at The University of Queensland and brings over 17 years’ experience in the Vocational Education and Training sector. Dane’s role at UQ Skills is to lead and oversee the management and success of UQ Skills, a Registered Training Organisation (RTO) which is committed to producing innovative and adaptable skilled workers, leaders and graduates through vocational education and training. This includes identifying and creating new models of complementary skills training for higher education students as well as implementing industry-focused skills training and pathways for the broader community. As an experienced vocational education and training leader, and trainer and assessor, Dane has overall accountability for the implementation of UQ Skills’ strategic direction within the University, RTO compliance and business management. He strives to provide best practice training and assessment design, development and implementation.

The role solutions focused skills training has in business success
The world of agriculture is becoming fast paced and is changing dramatically, increasing the demands on businesses for compliance, practical skills and knowledge.  Many employers feel a sense of urgency to improve workplace inductions, mentoring and training opportunities due to ever-demanding compliance needs and staffing changes. This is especially pertinent when the agri-workforce is no longer an industry where job seekers arrive asking for work. The ever increasing skills gap in modern agriculture has led to a growing need for innovative applied skills training. This presentation aims to deconstruct the perceived complexities of formal education and showcase how innovative skills training can equip businesses with practical solutions to succeed and sustainably grow business capability from within.

Luciano Mesiti
Primary Industries Education Foundation Australia (PIEFA)

Luciano is the CEO of Primary Industries Education Foundation Australia (PIEFA), whose aim is to promote food and fibre education in schools nationally. Prior to his appointment as CEO, he was a high school teacher, teaching agriculture and technology subjects. As well, he was president of the NSW Agriculture Teachers Association and a Lighthouse teacher of excellence in the NSW Dept of Education. Luciano has extensive experience in curriculum development in agriculture and horticulture and STEM and is a very passionate advocate of students knowing about where their food comes from and about the extensive careers available in agriculture. PIEFA’s main education resource website is:

Showcasing Career Harvest programs – linking schools with careers in agriculture, food and fibre.
Primary Industries Education Foundation Australia is a not for profit education organisation that serves to promote food and fibre knowledge in schools. It does this through several educational programs via its Primezone website and through its Career Harvest website which promotes and informs about food and fibre careers. Career Harvest is a one stop shop with career pathway information, scholarships, jobs page and gap year links, and links to many careers videos. This presentation will showcase the Career Harvest program.

Keynote speakers

Rod Morris
Queensland Farmers’ Federation

With a lifetime of farming experience and over 15years in Vocational Education Training, Rod brings a deep understanding of farming to his role as an Industry skills Advisor (ISA). This experience provides strategic advice to the Department of Education, Small Business & Training (DESBT). Hosted by Queensland Farmer Federation the ISA role that primary aims to raising industry awareness of and participation in the Vocational Education & Training (VET), providing advice to government on industry skills needs, supporting industry to develop business cases to influence the Queensland Government Annual VET Investment Plan, workforce development activities, and skill set endorsement at the national level. Rod plays a key role to enhance educational outcomes and employment opportunities for people seeking work and a career in the agriculture industry.

Interested in getting more skilled people into your business? – Learn how to make work placements work for you.
A great way for businesses to attract the next generation is to provide work experiences for those you’re looking to attract. For years you’ve seen trade apprenticeships work, but these are just a sample of experiences you can provide. Businesses like yours can offer school placements, holiday work, gap years, internships, traineeships, cadetships, graduate placements just to name a few.

The benefits of these work experiences for everyone involved can never be overstated.

But where do you start?

With information we’ll provide so you can effectively implement work placements, and benefit from the skills built on the job. Even with the opportunity before them, training providers can still struggle to connect enterprises with willing and able trainees and apprentices. Our goal is to make this process simpler so you can reap the benefits of the next generation and know the ability to leave a legacy in this industry is in your hands.

So, what legacy will you leave?

Dr Diana Saunders
Rural Jobs and Skills Alliance.

Dr Diana Saunders has more than 17 years of experience as a project and research manager leading a large number of projects and building collaboration to address workforce and people development issues across agricultural industries. She has also conducted research in the areas of innovation, teamwork, leadership, knowledge transfer and the economic and social impact assessment of projects. Diana currently works as a policy advisor in workforce planning at Queensland Farmers’ Federation. She is the project manager of the Rural Jobs and Skill alliance (RJSA), whose purpose is to address mutual goals for its member organisations that focus on the attraction, development and retention of new entrants and existing workers to underpin the prosperity of Queensland’s agricultural sector now and into the future. Its mission is to identify agricultural workforce needs and seek effective solutions to ensure a sustainable agricultural workforce for Queensland. The RJSA provides leadership and advice to government, service providers and other organisations with respect to employment, skills, industry training and workforce planning on behalf of Queensland’s agriculture and related industries.

Panel discussion

Louise Nicholas
Home Hill State High School

Louise is a Senior Experienced Secondary Agricultural Science Teacher who has grown up on the land, worked on properties, experienced a variety of field work and most importantly taught and encouraged the next generation to immerse themselves in agriculture.  Throughout her roles and responsibilities as an educator she has gained a diverse knowledge of education system/s, effective operation of schools, curriculum frameworks, syllabus documents, assessment and reporting requirements.

In her current role as Agriculture Coordinator at Home Hill State High School (HHSHS) and also NQ Coordinator for the Queensland Agricultural Teachers Association she have worked closely with educators, students and liaised with industry to identify curriculum connections and experiences.  She believes that these are the opportunities that engage and foster an interest and understanding about the food and fibre industries.  To articulate the journey of food and fibre production is one thing but to open their world up to the many possibilities of education, training and employment within the sector certainly drives her passion of building school to industry links.

Jayson Dowie

Jayson Dowie has been involved in Primary Industry all of his life from Sheep to Grain and for the last 16 years, he has been heavily involved in Cane in North Queensland where he is now an Owner and Director of Farmacist, the largest private sugar agronomy company spanning from Northern NSW to Far North Queensland. Jayson has always had a passion for agriculture and the growers on the land. He has led several large successful practice change projects that focus on improving efficiencies and return on investment to growers. He also has a passion for supporting and enabling new people entering the industry with the aim to build future growth and longevity not only for his company, but the industry as a whole.

Ingrid Gow

Ingrid is a University of New South Wales graduate with a PhD in Entomology and Bachelor of Education from the University of Capetown. Working in South Africa and Australia she has over 20 years of experience in both agricultural research and education. Ingrid’s research focused on cotton agricultural landscapes enhancing opportunities for integrated pest management. Using her experience in agriculture, Ingrid promoted agriculture and agricultural research in the classroom. She has worked for the Primary Industry Centre for Science Education as well as teaching in numerous high schools. She is passionate about helping young people find careers and opportunities within agriculture. Ingrid is based in Toowoomba with the Primary Industry Education Foundation Australia and currently promoting the AgCAREERSTART Gap Year program. This program is a gap year program funded by the National Farmers Federation and Federal Government aiming to get young people working in agriculture.

Keynote speakers

Ian Atkinson
Nursery and Garden Industry Queensland (NGIQ)

Ian has more than thirty years’ experience in Australian agriculture specializing in plant nursery production, irrigation, and environmental management. Former Industry Development Manager for the Nursery Industry Association of Australia he is co-author of several publications and training packages about water management in nurseries (inc. WaterWork). After leaving NIAA in 2000 he spent 10 years working for Cooperative Research Centre’s concluding as CEO of the CRC for Irrigation Futures. Ian is CEO of Nursery & Garden Industry Queensland which represents approximately one-quarter of the entire Australian industry “A billion dollar industry and growing every day.”

Making the VET system work for the ag industry.
Ian will use the Queensland nursery industry as a case example of how we can get wins from Vocational Education and Training (VET), if we work hard. The industry is worth $1b a year to the Qld economy (QDAF AgTrends data) and employs around 6,000 people over 1,270 businesses. Going back 5-6 years industries faith in the VET system had fallen to a very low ebb with many businesses preferring to employ people who hadn’t done VET. This was a result of a combination of factors; we had disengaged from the VET sector, the funding model was flawed (arguably it still is), some of the profit maximising Registered Training Organisations (RTOs) were delivering qualifications of no benefit to either student or employer, and a lack of industry relevant trainers. Several years of working through RJSA, partnering with RTO’s, marketing opportunities like the Boosting Apprenticeship Commencements program, and engaging with Skills Impact, has started to deliver real world benefits.

Keiran Burns
Department of Agriculture and Fisheries

Keiran Burns is the Queensland Agricultural Workforce Network (QAWN) project manager.

Queensland Agricultural Workforce Network (QAWN).
QAWN is funded by the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, with QAWN officers hosted by industry/economic bodies located throughout the State. QAWN delivers a free service to agribusinesses with operations in Queensland, regardless of commodity or organisation membership and support the sector on a range of workforce matters including future skills development pathways.

VET Workshop

Andrew Horgan
Skills Impact

Andrew combines a sound knowledge of agriculture with extensive experience within the VET system. He is equally at ease talking with farmers in a paddock, engaging with industry leaders or education providers to promote flexibility in the delivery of training packages. Stakeholders recognise his dedication to vocational education and training (VET) and passion for the agricultural industry, inclusive of all the rural sectors by improving Australia’s workforce capabilities and economy

Cassandra Cowley
Department of Employment, Small Business and Training

Cass currently works in the Department’s Industry Engagement team and has previously undertaken compliance and engagement related roles in government and externally with Registered Training Organisations. With an understanding of both private sector and government drivers, Cass is passionate about connecting current and future users of the VET sector to the answers and/or services they need, and breaking down barriers to participation in training.