One of the greatest challenges to this year’s cane harvest continues to be workforce shortages, both in the paddock and at the sugar mill.
From truck and haulout drivers to harvester operators and mill workers, an inability to fill vital industry roles has disrupted and delayed crushing right up and down the coast.
While this has been a growing problem for all of agriculture in recent years, there is no doubt it accelerated significantly during the covid-19 pandemic.
That’s why CANEGROWERS has taken steps to not only alleviate the immediate worker shortage problems, but to attract a new generation of workers into the industry.
Over the past few months, CANEGROWERS has joined with other key industry stakeholders to help create a new online magazine aimed at increasing awareness and knowledge amongst high-school students about the wide variety of career opportunities in agriculture.
The Careers in Agriculture magazine, created by the Queensland Farmers’ Federation (QFF) and the Rural Skills and Jobs Alliance (RJSA), is targeted at students, parents, teachers and career advisors.
The magazine highlights the fantastic careers available within the sugar industry, including two real life career stories from Productivity Services Extension Officer Jasmine Girgenti and Sugar Research Australia Variety Development Manager Felicity Atken.
The launch of this online resource ties in with other work CANEGROWERS is doing in the education space.
Together with the Primary Industries Education Foundation Australia (PIEFA), CANEGROWERS created and launched a curriculum-aligned educational resource for teachers in 2021.
The One Plant, Many Products resource teaches students about the sugar industry and the sugar production process. It also promotes the varied career opportunities available through the sugar supply chain.
The resource targets years 5-8 science, design and technology, and geography students and is available to download on the Primezone teacher resource website.
CANEGROWERS is now in the process of developing a similar resource for high-school students, which is scheduled for launch later this year.
The fact is, without enough appropriately skilled workers, agricultural industries cannot survive, and the sugar industry is no different.
That’s why it’s vital that we engage with schools, teachers and students of all ages, and provide them with the appropriate resources, so that they can see a clear and viable career path in our industry.
Of course, this is a long game, and it will not fix our immediate workforce shortage problems. That’s why CANEGROWERS will not only continue but will ramp up its online and social media campaign to attract more workers into the industry ahead of next year’s harvest.
We will also continue to work with QFF, the National Farmers’ Federation, and all levels of government to develop strategies to shore up the agricultural workforce in regional Queensland.
The sugar industry is the lifeblood of many regional communities and CANEGROWERS will work tirelessly to ensure it not only survives, but flourishes and expands in the years and decades ahead.