Lack of agriculture awareness among youth

In order for agriculture to create more jobs and get a fair share of graduates, the industry has to secure a more prominent place in the career guidance curriculum at school level.

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The various sectors within the industry also need to promote themselves proactively to potential graduates. This was according to Standard Bank’s head of agribusiness, Nico Groenewald.

There was a perception among youth and adults that working on a farm was mostly about doing tough physical work in all types of weather, said Groenwald.

“By its nature, agriculture is primarily an outdoor occupation. However, that’s not the whole picture. Agriculture is a science and needs people with degrees in science and engineering to help push it forward on levels such as genetics, soil management, and water management, physical construction such as dams and contouring, and mechanisation,” he said.

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“This applies both in primary agriculture, on the farm, and downstream, in processing plants,” said Groenewald.

The career opportunities in agriculture were extensive, and most of them required at least graduate capabilities. “Young people don’t always know this and so their career choices are curtailed,” said Groenewald.

In addition to the shortage of graduates working in agriculture, there was a shortage of certain agricultural scientists. This put South Africa’s ability to stay on par with the rest of the world at risk.

“We need researchers who can look at how best to exploit international developments here in South Africa, or help local agricultural operations innovate to take the best advantage of local conditions.”

Groenewald said agricultural organisations such as Grain SA were beginning to make inroads into public awareness of career opportunities in the industry.

“When you consider that a relatively small percentage of school leavers enter university, and that agriculture must share that talent pool with all the other disciplines such as law, and medicine, then it becomes obvious that agriculture has to be much more proactive about creating awareness of the interesting careers it actually does offer,” said Groenewald.

“We shouldn’t be losing out on talent simply because we haven’t promoted ourselves.”