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Training shortages affect skills delivery in livestock sector

In the past decade, continual decreases in the level of funding within the training and skills sector has placed increased pressure on skills in the South Australian livestock industry.

Across the state, it is becoming increasingly difficult for employers to be able to source skilled labour, or to be able to up-skill existing staff members with agricultural and managerial training.

While there are numerous factors which play into staff shortages in the livestock sector, training plays a very crucial role in the ability of producers being able to access and retain skilled staff members.

The development of a skilled workforce is vital to maintain the productivity and resilience of the livestock sector, particularly as the complexity of the sector increases.

It is concerning to hear there is a serious risk that further, more noticeable, cuts could be made to government funding of training in rural and regional areas. There have already been very significant cuts made to past and current training providers, including organisations such as TafeSA.

The availability of training in regional areas is vital for the livestock sector, as it ensures people with a passion and interest in the industry are able to be trained and given the necessary skills to move from base-level positions to more highly trained roles.

Whether it is in a pastoral enterprise, or a more intensive industry such as a feedlot, dairy or piggery, it is important for employees to have the opportunity to undertake steps towards career progression, whether it is in early career upskilling or undergoing tier one management training.

Unfortunately, continual funding cuts have put a handbrake on the opportunity for workers to develop their technical and management skills through hands-on training due to a reduction in the availability of courses.

Most recently we understand there has been a problem in the delivery of a Certificate 4 in Wool Classing through TafeSA, despite the course having a waiting list of nearly 100 participants. It is a significant concern that we are unable to train the people we need to prepare the South Australian wool clip, especially with demand for wool taking prices to record levels.

In pastoral regions, employees are no longer able to access training through Port Augusta and instead have had to travel to Queensland to be able to access similar courses.

Earlier this year, 30 Livestock SA members from the South East and Eyre Peninsula graduated from a Diploma of Agribusiness Management which was delivered through Regional Skills Training with Federal Government funding from the Industry Skills Fund and with the support of Livestock SA. Once again, funding to support this training has now been withdrawn.

The course concluded in March and followed previous work Livestock SA has done in focusing on developing first tier management, giving people the skills to be able to identify and manage risks in the businesses they work in, whether these were environmental factors, market fluctuations, changes in the Australia Dollar and other factors.

Equipping trainees with these skills is important for employee retention as they learn skills on how to manage the team they work with. It is also important for ongoing management as it means the business owner can leave the business for a week and know it will be run appropriately.

Developing the skills of employees is key to ensuring a successful future for any business, including those in the livestock sector.

It is vital the State Government continues to support the provision of training in rural and regional areas to ensure our sector is not disadvantaged and our industry is able to continue as a mainstay of the South Australian economy.

ANDREW CURTIS, Chief Executive Officer, Livestock SA

28 June 2018 Media Type: Column / Policy Area: Industry training & development /