Upper Hunter in focus: training and education 

Opinion editorial by James Jackson, President of NSW Farmers 

The upcoming Upper Hunter by-election will shine a light on regional issues, such as the education and training needed to equip future generations with the skills to navigate a changing world. Food and fibre production contribute significantly to the Upper Hunter’s economic output, so it is essential the workforce underpinning this production is sustainable. 

Upskilling is a critical way of helping farmers adapt to change, especially around the use of technological aids. Agricultural technology is increasingly important for farm organisations, and we need a nimble vocational education and training sector to meet the pace of technological advancement and allow the local delivery of skills and training. 

A cornerstone of food security is a strong public knowledge and awareness of how and where food and fibre is produced. The diverse industry and demographic profile of the Upper Hunter region means a range of opportunities exist for farm enterprises to build this connection, for example through value-adding and agri-tourism. 

A stronger awareness of food and fibre production, as well as better skills and training, can help address the worker shortages felt across a range of agricultural industries. From primary school to tertiary education, opportunities abound to build knowledge and understanding of farming, as well as promote the career options available in the sector. 

Ultimately, people in agriculture need adaptable skills that can be used across a variety of sectors. As well as traditional opportunities, agriculture promises new and diverse prospects shaped by evolving trends in technology and efficiency-building. The state sector will need a cross-section of skills and experience to reach $30 billion in output by 2030. 

People in rural, regional and remote communities deserve an excellent education – from preschool to tertiary. We look forward to hearing the candidates’ views on education and training ahead of the Upper Hunter by-election during our Meet the Candidates forum at Scone RSL on Wednesday, 12 June.