Australia attracts international students to agricultural food production

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 11th October 2012

Courses in Agricultural food production at the North Melbourne Institute of Tafe (NMIT) have been attracting strong interest from international students. The subjects in NMIT’s Diploma of Agriculture course, and several other similar programs, have attracted international students into an area that is considered to have a significant skill shortage in Australia.

Malaysian student Suying Ooi told Australian Food News that she had previously worked for ten years in an office job in Malaysia, and that her change in career path was rewarding despite the physically taxing elements of studying agriculture.

“I wanted to get involved in the food industry because everyone eats food, but nobody wants to produce it. It is hard work but I find it very interesting, especially in Australia’s unique climate,” Ms Ooi said.

Ms Ooi will graduate from her Diploma of Agriculture at the end of 2012, and will commence a Bachelor of Agriculture and Land Management in 2013. Due to Australian “skill migration” requirements, she will be able to apply for Australian Citizenship at the end of 2013, after she has completed two years of study in Australian agriculture.

Similarly to Ms Ooi, former Sudanese refugee, Agout Ajing (pictured) is completing a Diploma of Agriculture at NMIT. Now an Australian resident, Mr Ajing was a participant in the dairy cow milk production division of the recent Royal Melbourne Show agricultural competition.

NMIT Agriculture and Animal Science Department Coordinator, Rhianna Clayton, said that the presence of international students in Australian agriculture was being encouraged.

“We have a significant skill shortage here, so it is great to see such hard-working students. Although many international students continue to work in food production in Australia, many also return home with information on sustainable food production and new technologies that they can offer their country,” Ms Clayton said.

Ms Clayton said that the NMIT agriculture department could also learn a lot from African students like Mr Ajing, who ‘comes from a country with a strong agricultural background.’

Australia has a strong tradition of agricultural food production. The Federal government has also been promoting Australia to investors in agribusiness as a place to put their money. Australia has an abundance of land, plenty of sunshine and appropriate water allocations are readily available. This interest comes at a time when food security around the world is a concern, and Australian agriculture and horticulture are rapidly modernising.

Pictured: Agout Ajing with an Angus cross Blonde d-Aquitaine at the recent Royal Melbourne Show. Image courtesy of the Weekly Times, Melbourne.