FFN Opinion: Ag education needs to STEAM ahead

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Future Farmers Network directors regularly give their opinion on the latest news, events and issues in agriculture for an article for Australian Community Media. Here’s the most recent yarn from FFN Director Simon Kensit.

We have witnessed a lot over the past six months. We can talk about it for days and we should, as it will go down in history as a time that we nearly ran out of toilet paper and all binge watched a documentary about caged big cats. Everyone has noticed so many different aspects of this pandemic.

One of the amazing things about this was that the essential workers kept on working because society needed them. During this time, the essential workers were more important than any famous movie star or sports person. The essential workers kept the world turning. It raised a clear and obvious statement to me and most likely the rest of the world that there is real security within these roles. Will we see an increase in people wanting to become essential workers in the future?

As time went on, there were more changes and a few big headlines hit the news around China banning imports, firstly beef from specific sites and then barley. To most of us in agriculture this was not a surprise but what I did find interesting about this was the Google search trends over this period.

During this time, the search for “what is barley” increase 20-fold and the search following that “what is barley used for” increase 75-fold. This clearly illustrated to me that there’s massive gap in our education system. Not knowing where milk comes from is one thing, but not knowing how you got your beer is a whole separate issue.

I do not expect everyone to be guru’s in agriculture but a basic understanding of where your food comes from in my eyes is critical.

‘Never waste a crisis’. Let us as an industry not waste this one and encourage agriculture to be part of our educational curriculum and clearly illustrate that it is a secure career path and that whatever happens in life, we’ll all need feeding at the end of the day.

I am lucky enough to be part of the Future Farmers Network and we get to support people grow and further their careers in agriculture. As part of the network there are various educational, networking and career development opportunities but there might just be a step missing between us and the students either at school or leaving it. The Government were pushing the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) initiatives of which the ‘Early Learning and Schooling’ alone is getting $64.6 million for “Department of Education and Training initiatives to help students embrace the digital age and prepare for the jobs of the future.”

I am 100 per cent for encouraging and driving this form of education but maybe after this crisis this should be reassessed and that acronym in Australia could be changed to STEAM.

Source: Google Trends 2020
Source: Google Trends 2020