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Ag colleges at full capacity

Headshot of Jenne Brammer
Jenne BrammerThe West Australian

WA's five agricultural colleges are at full capacity for the first time in many years, indicating a surge in interest from young people wanting to pursue agricultural careers.

WAFarmers chief executive Stephen Brown said there were also waiting lists to study at the colleges, based at Harvey, Cunderdin, Denmark, Narrogin and Morawa.

Speaking at the AgConnectWA 2015 annual conference in Perth, Mr Brown said although it was encouraging to see an increased demand it was necessary to increase capacity at these colleges, in particular their accommodation facilities.

Formerly called WA Young Farmers, AgConnect WA aims to connect, represent and provide support to young people throughout the agricultural industry in order to address the challenges they face them, and to harness the opportunities available.

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This year's conference had more than 80 delegates.

Mr Brown said WA's agricultural colleges, and agriculture careers in general, could continue to be promoted by showcasing success stories and demonstrating the opportunities available.

Mr Brown said he would like to see more people such as CBH chairman Wally Newman, or Australian Grain Institute executive officer Manjusha Thorpe, who is in charge of a $2 million funding package to write an important industry plan, used as examples of successful people in agriculture.

Dr Thorpe was appointed by the AGI and is charged with building and implementing a comprehensive capacity-building model for the WA grains industry given its challenges in attracting and retaining sufficient, suitably trained workers across all parts of the grain-value chain.

The need to increase skills in the agricultural sector was identified as one of the eight key initiatives within the WA Grains Industry Strategy 2025.

Dr Thorpe also used the AgConnect conference last week to chair a workshop and discussion about the importance of capacity building in the sector.

As part of that, the issue of rural communities was discussed, with the general consensus that the size of town and facilities offered were very important in supporting farming communities.

One of the risks cited was that farming would become a drive-in-drive-out role if communities were not deemed desirable places to live.

An example used was the need for a recreation centre, which would promote better community spirit and make a town a more desirable place to live.

However, one of the issues with small towns was whether to build facilities (such as recreation centres) to bring people in, or whether the people had to be there in the first place to justify building the recreation centre, delegates said.

It was mentioned that although the number of people in rural communities had decreased, their skills and capabilities had increased - meaning those living in these areas were typically successful farmers who were more committed.

Meanwhile, at an AGM held on the day, members of AgConnectWA re-elected Kallum Blake of Katanning as president, with Katie Pole, from Larrawa Station, re-elected as vice-president.

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