$5 million plea for ag program

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Pastoralists and Graziers Association of WA president Tony Seabrook, WA Agriculture Minister Alannah MacTiernan, WA Education Minister Sue Ellery and CBH grower and external relations general manager Brianna Peake.
Camera IconPastoralists and Graziers Association of WA president Tony Seabrook, WA Agriculture Minister Alannah MacTiernan, WA Education Minister Sue Ellery and CBH grower and external relations general manager Brianna Peake. Credit: Mark Scott

WA Labor is urging primary industry businesses to chip-in and co-fund a multimillion dollar program promoting forestry, fishery and agriculture careers to high school students.

WA Agriculture Minister Alannah MacTiernan dangled a $5 million carrot in front of industry figureheads at a launch on Tuesday, saying the PRIMED program would target years 7-12 students.

The State is seeking a dollar-for-dollar contribution from industry, totalling $1 million a year for five years.

The launch was attended by CBH, Pastoralists and Graziers Association of WA, Grain Industry Association of WA and WAFarmers, among others, in Perth.

Attendees received a two-page pamphlet asking “industry partners”, “can your business help students become PRIMED for the future?”

It listed sponsorship benefits for “supporters, investors, premium investors and ultimate investors” pitching in between $20,000 and $200,000 a year.

“PRIMED is seeking combined industry investment of $1 million per annum over five years, to match government investment,” the pamphlet said.

Ms MacTiernan said the program would be a collaboration between three departments — Primary Industries and Regional Development, Training and Workforce Development, and Education.

She said it would aim to “inspire” students and educators and give them a better understanding of the careers available across primary industries.

“We want to encourage highly skilled, innovative and motivated young people to support agriculture’s long-term success,” Ms MacTiernan said.

“We need to open the eyes of young people to the enormous range of 21st century careers in agriculture.

“We need to inspire them with the positive stories of growing food, caring for the land and the cutting edge of agtech.”

Grain Industry Association of WA chief executive Larissa Taylor, whose organisation launched its own career-promotion branch “Careers in Grain” last year, welcomed the announcement.

“This it is a fantastic, multi-departmental initiative from the State Government, to promote and co-ordinate food and agriculture in the curriculum in WA,” she said.

“For a long time, what has been missing is food and agriculture-specific curriculum content, and professional development opportunities for teachers ... this program will address those gaps.”

Ms Taylor said industry would be able to support secondary schools “with excursions and industry experiences” to showcase the breadth and depth of jobs “way beyond the farm gate”.

Countryman understands the State Government is now preparing a business plan for PRIMED, to send to potential investors.

PGA president Tony Seabrook said the State Government’s “intention was good” but there was already untapped potential in “country kids”.

He said he believed regional students were the most likely to return to, or stay in the country, and pursue a job in agriculture.

“I wouldn’t kick the program because it is well intentioned, but I have grave reservations about whether this is going to hit the button,” Mr Seabrook said.

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