More skilled labour needed in horticulture

STRONG PICKINGS: Horticultural producers on the MidNorth Coast have their say on labour requirements.
STRONG PICKINGS: Horticultural producers on the MidNorth Coast have their say on labour requirements.

A SURVEY of 140 horticultural producers on the mid-north coast has identified a need for local residents to take up careers in agricultural to meet growth.

Current and future workforce needs in the region's banana, blueberry, macadamia and avocado industries were the focus of new research released this week by North Coast TAFE and Agrifood Skills Australia.

It found growers were continuing to struggle with labour shortages during peak harvesting months, as well as a shortage of skilled and semi-skilled workers throughout the year.

North Coast TAFE head teacher of primary industries Tony McGowan said the study aimed to inform institutions about the training pathways needed to meet future demand.

"The survey has led to a discussion (with growers) around developing a shared labour pool of semi-skilled locals and how to manage that labour," he said.

"Growers were also keen to source labour locally."

Department of Primary Industry's Phillip Wick said a larger labour pool was needed to meet growth in the blueberry industry, which was expected to double on the mid-north Coast in the next two years.

Research also found a shortage of skilled labour in the avocado industry, while new opportunities were opening up in the banana industry as growers trial the development of niche varieties to corner new markets.

Mr McGowan said younger generations were showing interest in taking up careers in horticulture.

"There is a growing interest and a lot of its going to be driven about how attractive it is in terms of the pathways, and especially remuneration in the more technical and skill-based levels," he said.

The report is on the Agrifood Skills Australia website

Topics:  bananas blueberries coffs harbour horticulture north coast tafe

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