The “mythology” of regenerative agriculture and lack of scientific evidence has prompted two renowned plant scientists to write to Ag Minister Damien O’Connor.
The Occupation Outlook 2015 report is a comprehensive industry document, aimed at providing information for those considering study and career options. The report rated the job prospects for agricultural scientists as very high, projecting an annual growth for the profession of 4% for 2013-18 and 3.2% for 2018-23.
Environmental scientists and food technicians achieved identical figures, while the job prospects for farmers and farm managers also rated very high.
"The report lends weight to the message Lincoln University has been making for some time. Namely, that there are many exciting career opportunities in the primary sector for those who are prepared to open themselves up to the possibilities," says Deputy Vice-Chancellor business development, Jeremy Baker.
"The sector is becoming increasingly sophisticated. While this means a greater need for highly trained individuals in agribusiness and science-related fields, it also opens up a range of opportunities in areas such as IT and manufacturing, as well as in the provision of financial and accounting services."
The Government is increasingly targeting more highly skilled occupations within the primary industries in an attempt to improve outcomes across value chains and meet its 2025 target of doubling primary exports.
Baker sees this as particularly important in light of last year's Ministry of Education report which stated that only 1.1% of current university students are studying an agriculture-based discipline.
The primary sector employs approximately 350,000 people nationwide (including manufacturing for land-based industries and other related services). This accounts for around one in six employees. Estimates from the Occupation Outlook 2015 report suggest that the country will need an additional 92,600 qualified workers in the sector by 2025 in order to meet industry goals.
"My advice to any student considering their options is to think beyond the usual pathways. If you have an interest in biology or chemistry, why not apply that to something like plant science, animal science, or bio-protection, for instance? If you're thinking of studying business, maybe consider something like food marketing or supply chain management?" says Baker.
"There are pathways and specialisations that extend well beyond the farm itself. We need career professionals to fly the primary sector flag."