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Statistics show shortfall in farmer education



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PRESS RELEASE Peter McGauran MP Shadow Minister for Science and Technology Federal Member for Gippslaod

STATISTICS SHOW SHORTFALL IN FARMER EDUCATION

Australia's fanning community has the lowest level of formal educational achievement amongst western industrialised countries.

Statistics compiled by the Victorian College of Agriculture and Horticulture (VCAH) show less than 25% of the Australian farm workforce possess more than a lower secondary education.

This contrasts to more than 50% in New Zealand, North America and western Europe and upwards of 90% in Scandinavian countries.

The Shadow Minister for Science and Technology, Peter McGauran, said today it was vital participation rates in post secondary education increase if the next generation of Australian farmers were to capitalise on the results of the

latest scientific research and meet the growing technical demands of their profession.

Mr McGauran said the agricultural industry was on the verge of becoming of a high technology enterprise but Australian farmers were ill-prepared to meet the challenges this presented.

He said the VCAH figures revealed only about 7% of Victoria's dairy, horticulture and broadacre farmers possessed a tertiary education.

"Up until now, the rural sector has been dominated by a culture of self-help and self-education, " Mr McGauran said.

"Training and education has largely taken place in-house and through short courses and the like.

"While this has been effective in creating one of the most efficient industries in the economy, there is now a need to formalise these processes by direct participation in the post secondary education system."

Mr McGauran said the necessity for developing sophisticated land management strategies and the increasing availability of scientific breakthroughs in genetic engineering and the like will demand a higher level of technical competence than in the

past.

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"Moreover, if the agricultural industry is to survive the rigours of increasing international competition it must be able to ring every extra efficiency from its business plans.

"Developments in such areas as international marketing require an increasingly sophisticated approach both to plant and animal production," Mr McGauran said, " and only those farmers who upgrade their skills can expect to survive."

Though productivity growth in Australian agriculture was already more than twice that for the economy as a whole, this could be jeopardised by continued low participation rates of post secondary education.

"while the future of rural commodities rests on trade TOtiation outcomes, interest and exchange rates and so th, the rural community also needs to look to its own self- i movement," Mr McGauran said.

"Studies in Australia and the United States snow higher levels of education and training significantly improve farm productivity.H

Mr McGauran said Australia's agricultural educational institutions had designed a wide variety of courses tailored to meet the needs of present and future generations of farmers.

He said it was critical the youth of rural Australia be encouraged to stay in the post-secondary education system in order to deepen the skill base in Australian agriculture.

For further information, contact Peter McGauran:

(03) 629 6254 or (03) 650 7845

January 27, 1991