Australia’s food industry needs more skilled workers: AWPA

A report released today by the Australian Workforce and Productivity Agency (AWPA) has found that Australia’s food industry needs more highly skilled workers to grow new export markets in the Asian region.

The report titled Food and beverage workforce study was developed with industry and educational stakeholders and suggests the Australia’s agrifood industry- inclusive of both agricultural production and food processing – is in transition, furthering the need to employ more skilled workers in the industry.

The industry currently employs over 550,000 people, generating four percent of Australia’s GDP and 11.5 percent of the value of exports.

Philip Bullock, chairman of the AWPA said that despite strong growth, the industry is facing significant challenges.

“Agriculture remains one of Australia’s most productive industries and food and beverage processing is now our largest manufacturing sector in terms of employment,” said Bullock. “However, the reality is that with limited potential to grow domestic markets, the future lies in us finding new customers in rapidly growing and highly competitive Asian markets.

“The ongoing restructure of the industry resulting in larger farms and the growing use of new technologies in the agriculture and food processing sectors is also requiring workers to have higher level skills.

“Growing skills will require attention and focus as, currently, less than 40 per cent of workers in agriculture and fishing, and 45 per cent in food processing, have a post-school qualification, compared to Australia’s all-industries average of 62 per cent.’  

Key recommendations made in the study include:

  • Stronger and more coordinated national leadership to drive the agrifood industry workforce development agenda
  • Establishing an agrifood career promotion strategy, to raise the profile of agrifood careers and attract new skilled workers
  • Developing and using the skills of the existing workforce
  • Encouraging more employers to invest in training
  • Increasing industry involvement to ensure education and training is industry relevant
  • Increasing the diversity of the food workforce, by encouraging underrepresented groups into the industry

 

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