By Growcom CEO Stephen Barnard
There are many things we do better in Queensland agriculture than anywhere else. And frankly, as the preeminent producer nationwide of sugar, beef and fresh fruits and vegetables, so we should.
Our success and advantages are the product of a strong agriculture department working collaboratively with peak industry bodies, who enjoy the support of a healthy cross section of producers.
As COVID-19 continues to cause havoc to the availability of casual labour, particularly in the horticulture sector, the Queensland Agriculture Workforce Network (QAWN) has come into its own.
Commonly referred to as QAWN, like you find on the cob, the Network is a free service available to agribusinesses with operations in Queensland.
Funded by the Queensland Department of Agriculture, QAWN officers live and work regionally, are hosted within state or regional bodies, and provide advice on services and initiatives including workforce planning, sourcing labour and skilled workers, recruitment, induction requirements, and funded training opportunities.
The dramatic decrease of backpackers in the country, upon whom the horticulture industry had come to rely, has meant we’ve needed to rapidly diversify our supply of labour, including attracting more Australians into seasonal work.
QAWN officers have proven essential in making connections between farmers and local workers, whether they’re school leavers, university students, migrants, refugees or grey nomads.
Each year the Queensland horticulture industry alone is responsible for employing more than 25,000 people, many of whom are casual and seasonal. This number will only continue to grow as our industry, despite COVID-19, goes from strength to strength.
Growcom has been proudly part of QAWN since its inception in 2016. We congratulate the Palaszczuk Government for investing in this initiative and recognising that for many agricultural businesses, labour supply issues are a huge barrier to prosperity.
As our industry grows and labour supply continues to be constrained, this indispensable service arguably needs to be expanded.
Growcom is making this case with the Queensland Government, and in our submission to the National Agriculture Workforce Strategy have recommended the Federal Government follows suit.
There are seven QAWN officers located throughout the state to help you meet your future workforce needs. For more information or to get in contact with your local QAWN officer visit: https://www.growcom.com.au/portfolio/queensland-agriculture-workforce-network/