Securing the next generation in farming and food careers

Agri-food is a key sector of the Australian economy, contributing $65B (3.5%) to GDP and $36B (10%) to national export income. Supporting further growth of the sector is a strategic priority for the Commonwealth and state governments and industry. This growth, and the overall sustainability of the sector, are currently at risk due to challenges in attracting and retaining young people into agri-food careers. Solutions to these challenges remain elusive and new ways of understanding and addressing the challenges are urgently needed.

Dr Esperanza Vera-Toscano, Senior Research Fellow at the Melbourne Institute, Faculty of Business and Economics, is a member of a cross-discipline research team that recently secured funding for an Australian Research Council (ARC) Linkage project.

The project, led by Professor Ruth Nettle of the Faculty of Veterinary and Agricultural Sciences, aims to investigate why and how people aged 15-35 years come to work in the agriculture and food sector. It expects to generate knowledge that will improve career paths for youth and inform policy decisions related to the industry. This in turn should lead to sustainability and growth in the agri-food sector and economic growth in regional communities.

The project secured over $400,000 in funding from the ARC and partner organisations, and will be conducted over 3 years. The research is funded through the ARC Linkage program, and with co-investment by the University of Melbourne and 7 partner organisations from the agri-food sector, including the Gardiner Foundation.

The research has three phases conducted over three years. Select the following tabs to learn more about what goes on each year.

A national level longitudinal analysis of Australian labour market data (the HILDA dataset) about young people’s job and career outcomes.

An in-depth study of young people’s experiences in the agri-food sector in Victoria through surveys, interviews and discussions with over 1500 young people.

Workshops with young people and relevant stakeholders to apply the findings to policy change and action.

How will young people and their communities benefit?

The following diagram outlines what the findings will be used for.

Strengthen career outcomes for young people Improve sustainability and growth of the agri-food sector Support rural and regional communities and their economic prosperity Co-design youth-appropriate industry and education policy proposal Provide new models of youth engagement in the agrifood sector

The research will assess how well current ways of engaging young people are working. The project will ascertain the extent to which young people’s aspirations, experiences, education, training and support needs are addressed by current efforts of industries, communities and government.

To learn more about the project visit Securing the next generation in farming and food careers (The University of Melbourne, 2024).