The Australian Council of Deans of Agriculture (ACDA) and others have shown that there is a current skills shortage in agriculture, with annually some 2000 jobs available relative to the 800 graduates in agriculture and related disciplines [2, 3].
Strategies are being implemented regionally and nationally, through the ACDA and the Primary Industry Centre for Science Education (PICSE) in collaboration with industry to promote agriculture as an attractive and worthwhile career option for young and mature-age students.
With the agricultural sector contributing more than 3% GDP , there is increasing pressure for the development of strategies to address the agriculture skills shortage; universities have a key role in meeting this demand.
Agriculture and related disciplines (e.g. Agricultural Science, Agribusiness, Agricultural Economics, Horticulture, Wine Science, Viticulture) are offered in 14 Australian universities, as a three or four-year specialist degree or as a major in a Science degree.
Critical issues affecting the ability of universities to meet the skills shortage in agriculture are the design, content and delivery of the agriculture curriculum and the promotion of agriculture as a career to new students; greater engagement between universities and industry in curriculum design and cooperation between providers have been advocated as core components of curriculum rejuvenation [5, 6].
A recent inquiry on higher education and skills training for agriculture and agribusiness by the Senate Education, Employment and Workplace Relations References Committee  highlighted the importance of ongoing tertiary education in agriculture for Australia’s economic prosperity. Similar inquiries were recently undertaken in Victoria  and NSW .
Tertiary skills in Agriculture will underpin Australia’s ability to meet the objectives for food production and supply to our Asian neighbours, as outlined in the National Food Plan green paper  and Asian Century white paper , respectively. The Senate’s recommendations also note a need for improved vocational education and training and a need to break down barriers within the higher education sector to improve knowledge sharing.
Developing a specific AgLTAS statement (including the nature and extent of Agriculture and Agriculture TLO statements) in the context of Agriculture can contribute to addressing these issues by informing curriculum design. Involving industry as well as students during the consultation process is intended to ensure the relevance of the AgLTAS statement for agriculture graduates, but will more generally advance the interpretation of TLOs for other science disciplines.
2. McSweeney, P. and J. Rayner, Developments in Australian agricultural and related education. Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management, 2011. 33(4): p. 415-425.
3. Pratley, J., L. Copeland, and ACDA, Graduate completions in Agriculture and related degrees form Australian universities, 2001-2006. Farm Policy Journal, 2008. 5: p. 1-11.
4. NFF, NFF Farm Facts: 2012, 2012.
5. Dunne, A., Contemporary issues in the provision of tertiary agriculutre programs: a case study of The University of Queensland, 2010.
6. Bellotti, W., Human capacity to meet the sustainable intensification challenge., in In: Assessing the Opportunities for Achieving Future Productivity Growth in Australian Agriculture2012, Australian Farm Institute.
7. Australian Government, Higher education and skills training to support agriculture and agribusiness in Australia, 2012.
8. Parliment of Victoria, Inquiry into agricultural education and training in Victoria. Parlimentary paper No. 196 Session 2010 – 2012, 2012.
9. NSW Government, Review into Agricultural Education and Training in New South Wales – Issues Paper, 2012.
10. DAFF, National Food Plan green paper, 2012: Canberra.
11. Commonwealth of Australia, Australia in the Asian Century White Paper 2012, 2012.