22 February 2022. By AgForce General President Georgie Somerset.

One of the best things about AgForce’s School to Industry Partnership Program (SIPP) is seeing the smile on a kid’s face when they hold a lamb in their arms or ‘drive’ a tractor for the first time.

It’s something I, the SIPP team, teachers, family members, and anyone who helps deliver the numerous SIPP events, never grow tired of.

During the past five years more than 23,000 primary and secondary school students, 2,200 teachers, and 450 industry partners have participated in a SIPP event – two of those years during the COVID-19 pandemic.

While it’s true that COVID has shone a spotlight on the importance of our nation’s food security, a 2018 National Farmers’ Federation poll revealed that 52 per cent of 18- to 29-year-olds felt disconnected from farming and uninformed about the agriculture industry.

Research also estimates that to keep up with our food production demands Australia’s agricultural job market requires more than 4,000 new people entering the workforce each year, but that there are now only around 300 agricultural graduates produced annually, and 700 when related courses are considered.

Recent agricultural college closures have clearly only increased the intrinsic value of SIPP to society.

SIPP raises awareness about the importance of agriculture to our daily lives, promotes the diversity of interesting, rewarding careers in agriculture, and provides opportunities for children and teachers to experience agriculture and the people who work in it ‘up close and personal’ – helping them better understand the connections between modern life and agricultural production.

Funding from the Federal Department of Agriculture, Water and Environment and the Queensland Department of Employment, Small Business and Training has paved the way for the growing number of requests from Queensland schools to engage with AgForce’s SIPP – but, significantly, we need continued support and collaboration – especially from government – if SIPP is to continue to thrive.

Continued and even increased support will allow AgForce’s SIPP team to go on running programs and events that further highlight the importance of agriculture to current and future generations – all while putting a smile on the face of every kid (and adult) who attends them.

If you are a teacher or community member interested in more information on SIPP, call (07) 3236 3100.