The merits of a career in farming

Young people may not always regard farming as a glamorous career, but SA urgently needs these skills.

For many young people who have just completed matric, this is an interesting and exciting period as they start a new chapter in their life’s journey. It is now time to face the big bad world! Some are leaving home and becoming independent for the first time in their lives. For others, this is a difficult phase, because for various reasons they did not make it into university or other tertiary institution of their choice.

These young people will hopefully embark on a journey that will see them acquiring the skills they need to make it in the world. Such skills would also go a long way towards helping the country realise some of its most important goals, thereby improving the lives of ordinary South Africans. Unfortunately, there are certain career paths that South Africa’s youth would rather avoid because obtaining the necessary qualifications seems too difficult, or the jobs themselves are viewed as unglamorous.

Read: The skills needed to make SA farming more profitable

Most young men picture themselves working in elegant offices in the centre of South Africa’s major cities. They want jobs that will allow them to dine out in the restaurants of Sandton or Hyde Park, and live in luxurious, secure townhouse complexes, rather than working in harsh environments and living in areas that are not so ‘cool’.

One very specific sector that is desperately short of skills is the agricultural sector. Very few young people want to embark on a career in agriculture. I recently asked one such matriculant why he did not want to work in agriculture. With a puzzled tone to his voice, he responded: “And do what kind of work on a farm?”

He looked at me as if I had lost my mind. I wanted to ask him what was wrong with working on a farm and explain to him that choosing a career in this sector was not only about ‘working on a farm’, but that he could have a career in agriculture and still sit in a comfortable office in a city centre! But I realised I was too late.

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A young man like this should have known about this career path earlier, at least by the time he was in Grade 10. However, many high schools, especially in the rural areas, do not have the same privileges as those in the urban areas, where career guidance teachers are the norm. I think this aspect needs closer attention, especially if we want to attract more youths to careers aimed at addressing the country’s skills’ shortage.

Youth bursaries in north west
I was recently impressed with North West premier, Thandi Modise, who invited learners and unemployed youth in the North West to apply for bursaries which her administration offers every year. These bursaries target scarce skills needed to meet the skills’ requirements of both the province and the country, and agriculture is amongst them.

To demonstrate her commitment to these efforts, Modise wrote off about R42 million in study loan debt last year for young people from disadvantaged backgrounds who had studied through this bursary scheme. To those who will be studying and hopefully launching a career in agriculture, I would like to say welcome. You have made a wise choice!