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Agricultural Scientist, Agricultural Adviser New South Wales (NSW)


Agricultural Scientist, Agricultural Adviser New South Wales (NSW)

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									Agricultural Scientist, Agricultural Adviser                         New South Wales (NSW)
ASCO Code: 2114-21, 79                                                                         May 2008
Labour market rating             Shortage
Comment: Shortages are particularly evident for horticultural specialists.

Occupational demand
ABS Census data show that employment for these occupations was flat from 2001 to 2006.
Employment growth since then has been limited by persistent drought in much of western and
southern NSW, public sector funding constraints and strong competition for available research
funding. The Australian Bureau of Agriculture and Resource Economics (ABARE) expects NSW
farm cash income to fall by 27 per cent in 2007-08 following a decline of 72 per cent the previous
Occupational supply
There is a wide variety of higher education courses in agricultural science, horticultural science, life
sciences, agricultural economics and agricultural business management which could provide entry-
level training for these occupations. However, as these courses also provide training for a range of
other professions it is not possible to determine a training rate for agricultural scientist and
agricultural adviser. Nevertheless, DEEWR estimates that the number of persons completing
relevant bachelor-degree courses at NSW universities fell by nine per cent in the two years to 2007
thus reducing potential supply to these occupations. While official immigration data do not
separately identify these occupations, the consensus of employers contacted for this report was that
overseas immigration was a relatively minor supply source. No quantifiable data on wastage from
these occupations are available. Industry contacts, however, suggested that there was some loss of
advisers from the production sector during the drought.
Employer and industry comments/current labour market
A DEEWR survey of employers who had recently advertised for agricultural scientists or advisers
found that only 36 per cent of vacancies were filled within six weeks of advertising. Shortages
were evident across most industry sectors including research organisations, producers, agribusiness
and supply and service companies. While vacancies for horticultural specialists were among the
most difficult to fill, unfilled and hard-to-fill vacancies were distributed across a number of other
specialisations such as broad-acre crop production and irrigation. The majority of vacancies
surveyed were for senior and mid-level positions, usually requiring several years of specialised
experience (for example in a particular crop or a particular aspect of agricultural science such as
plant breeding). Most applicants, however, were recent graduates or otherwise had only limited
experience in Australian agricultural systems. Even when experienced applicants did apply,
employers reported that their expertise was usually in another specialisation or they were asking for
a remuneration which the employer could not afford. Positions based in small or remote inland
towns proved particularly difficult to fill: one in western NSW remained unfilled after 18 months of
intermittent advertising while another did not attract a single applicant after six weeks of
advertising. Employers based in Sydney, those seeking specialists in livestock and those seeking
recent graduates generally had more success in filling vacancies, although recruitment difficulties
were evident in some locations.
Labour market outlook
Demand for these occupations over the short term will largely depend on output in the farm sector.
The Australian Treasury expects a 20 per cent increase in Australian farm production in 2008-09
assuming a return to average seasonal conditions. On the supply side, DEEWR projections indicate
that completions of relevant bachelor-level university courses will fall further over the next 12
months. Therefore shortages of agricultural scientists and advisers are likely to persist over the
short term and may worsen if there is a sustained recovery in agricultural production.

Labour Economics Office New South Wales                                                      May 2008
Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations
Agricultural Scientist and Adviser                                                         Victoria
ASCO Code: 2114-19 and 21                                                          March 2008
Labour market rating            Shortage
Comment: Lengthy recruitment process for employers seeking qualified, experienced staff

Occupational demand
Agricultural scientists study plants, animals and cultivation techniques, while agricultural advisers
provide advice to primary producers and associated industries to increase productivity. Demand for
agricultural scientists and advisers is determined by the level of agricultural activity. While
production levels have been affected by ongoing drought, studies and anecdotal evidence suggests
demand for agricultural scientists and advisers has increased due to increasingly complex
environmental management issues. The 2006 ABS census indicates the number of agricultural
scientists in Victoria to be 759, an increase of over 32 per cent from 571 in 2001. Approximately
25 per cent of agricultural scientists are employed in government administration and defence; and a
further quarter in wholesale farm produce and supplies. ABS census data for Victoria indicate the
number of agricultural advisers decreased from 515 in 2001 to 457 in 2006, of whom over one third
are employed in the agriculture, forestry and fishing industry. The state budget 2008-09 has
allocated $205 million over four years to farming. This includes funds for research, development
and training to boost productivity through new technologies and farming practices.

Occupational supply
ABS 2006 census data for Australia indicate approximately 70 per cent of agricultural scientists and
60 per cent of agricultural advisers have bachelor degrees or above. Two major Victorian
universities with campuses in regional areas are the main source of graduates with degrees in
agricultural science or a related discipline (agriculture, agricultural husbandry, horticulture and
agriculture not elsewhere classified). DEEWR estimates the total number of completions in
agriculture or related disciplines for Victoria has declined by more than 50 per cent between 2002
and 2006, with 223 completions in 2006. There has also been an 11 per cent fall in the number of
commencements in the same period, with 367 commencements in 2006. In addition to university
graduates, there was a net inflow from overseas migration of 63 identified environmental and
agricultural science professionals in 2006-2007, compared with a net inflow of 45 migrants in 2005-

Employer and industry comments/current labour market
The Survey of Employers who Recently Advertised (SERA) found approximately one third of
surveyed vacancies were filled. The average number of suitable applicants per vacancy was 1.4 and
the total number of applicants per vacancy on average was 10. The suitable applicant to vacancy
ratio appears to reflect protracted recruitment exercises, lasting between 2 months and 2 years for
the majority of vacancies. In some cases, after failing to find suitably experienced and qualified
candidates, employers decided to fill the position with applicants with lower skills sets (eg
graduates) and train them up. Most employers surveyed stated the main reasons applicants were
unsuitable were inadequate experience and a lack of relevant skills. 70 per cent of vacancies
surveyed were based in regional Victoria and some respondents felt positions in regional locations
were not attractive to applicants and therefore harder to fill. Employers commented that the
requirements of the Victorian Native Vegetation Management Plan have increased demand for
botanists. It was also noted that there was a growing trend for farmers to consult specialist
agricultural scientists as opposed to retail agronomists employed by larger sales organisations.

Labour market outlook
The state budget appropriation allied with the declining higher education commencement and
completion figures for agriculture-related courses are likely to lead to a long term shortage in the

Labour Economics Office Victoria                                                          March 2008
Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR)
Agricultural Scientist and Agricultural Adviser                                      Queensland
ASCO Code: 2114 -19, 21                                                                   March 2008
Labour market rating                 Shortage
Occupational demand
Agricultural scientists research plants, animals and cultivation techniques to enhance productivity on
farms and agricultural businesses and to develop better environmental management methods.
Agricultural advisers provide advice to farmers, agricultural businesses, rural industries and the
government on the production, processing and distribution of farm products and land management.
Underlying drivers of demand for these professions include population growth, climate change,
reforms to governance and market structures, resource and environmental constraints and advances
in technology. Over the last twelve months however, demand for agricultural services in Queensland
has been further stimulated by the increasing global demand for agricultural products, the impacts of
monsoonal rains, widespread flooding and damage, drought and subsequent water restrictions, the
equine influenza and to a lesser degree an emerging trend towards biofuel production.
Occupational supply
Formal entry to these professions is via the completion of a science degree with a major in
agriculture-related studies. Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations data
indicate that commencements and completions coded under agriculture-specific courses have been
decreasing for several years. For instance, the total number of student commencements in 2006 was
43, which represents only about 40 per cent of the number recorded in 2003 (114). Notably, the
2006 figure includes enrollments in a new program that commenced at two campuses in the Far
North. Similarly, completions data show that 74 students graduated in 2003, but only 52 newly
qualified agricultural professionals entered the labour market in 2006. At the same time, there has
been a decline in overall workforce numbers with Census data for Queensland showing the number
of employed agricultural scientists down by two per cent and the number of employed agricultural
advisers falling by 30 per cent between 2001 and 2006.
Employer and industry comments/current labour market
Only 46 per cent of vacancies for these professionals were filled within six weeks of advertising.
Most vacancies were in regional Queensland and demand was strongest for those with highly
developed skills in agronomy sales and advice. Employers considered 80 per cent of the applicants
as unsuitable because they lacked these skills or had insufficient experience in the advertised setting.
Sixty per cent of regional employers did not fill their vacancies and attribute much of their
recruitment difficulty to the elevated cost of regional housing and the loss of potential applicants and
existing workers to higher paid positions (often unskilled) in the mineral resources sector. Contacts
reported that the declining student numbers are due to Queensland having very limited provisions for
agriculture in its school curriculums, and because today’s applied science students are more easily
attracted to environmental, or increasingly, forensic or biotechnology sciences. Smaller firms from
this study reported that the supply of potential candidates for their vacancies has been further limited
by major employers offering vocational experience and scholarships resulting in students being
employed or closely affiliated with an organisation long before they complete their study. Most
respondents stated that both of these occupations have an ageing workforce and with large numbers
expected to retire over the short to medium term, the shortages will intensify.
Labour market outlook
Research, innovation and further advances in technology are central to the future of the agricultural
sector, but at present there is an acute shortage of the professionals needed to perform these
fundamental roles. Both student and workforce numbers are declining due to lack of industry appeal
and to an ageing workforce. In the meantime, demand for agricultural professionals is expected to
escalate in line with growth in the industry. It is therefore likely that the current shortage of
agricultural scientists and advisers in Queensland will strengthen over 2008-09.
Labour Economics Office Queensland                                                        March 2008
Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEWR)
Agricultural Scientist and Adviser                                             South Australia
ASCO Code: 2114-19,21                                                                  February 2008
Labour market rating                 Shortage

Occupational demand
Approximately a third of agricultural scientists are employed in the property and business services
industry (mostly in scientific research) with a further 19 per cent employed in the agricultural,
forestry and fishing industry and 18 per cent in wholesale trade. Forty one per cent of agricultural
advisers are employed in the property and business services industry (scientific research) with a
further 30 per cent working in the agriculture, forestry and fishing industry and 11 per cent in
government administration and defence. In the public sector, demand for these occupations is often
dependent on the availability of government funding for research projects. Employment
opportunities in the private sector are determined by the level of activity in agriculture and related
industries. The agriculture industry has experienced difficult trading conditions in recent years due
to the recent drought. Employment levels in agriculture, forestry and fishing declined in the period
2004 to 2006, which was followed by a modest increase in 2007. This is consistent with DEEWR’s
Skilled Vacancies Index data which showed that newspaper advertisements for agricultural
scientists and advisers declined in 2005 and 2006, followed by a slight increase in 2007.
Occupational supply
The major source of supply is graduates of the Bachelor of Agriculture at the University of
Adelaide. Student commencements averaged around 145 per annum up to 2001, but this was
followed by a steady decline through to 2005 when there were 62 commencements. Preliminary
data indicate a modest increase to 86 in 2006. DEEWR projections suggest there were around 67
completions in 2007 with around 48 completions anticipated in 2008. Results from the GCCA
Graduate Destination Survey indicate that employment outcomes for graduates have recently
declined. In 2006, 64 per cent of South Australian agriculture graduates seeking full-time
employment were successfully employed compared to 74 per cent in 2005. In addition to local
university graduates, there was a net inflow from overseas migration of 31 environmental and
agricultural science professionals (disaggregated data are unavailable) in 2006-07. This compares
with a net inflow of 17 migrants in 2005-06. Employer contacts confirmed that some recently
arrived migrants are employed as agricultural scientists or advisers.
Employer and industry comments/current labour market
A survey of employers who recently advertised for agricultural scientists and advisers indicated that
53 per cent of positions were filled within six weeks. Each vacancy attracted an average of five
applicants but the average number of applicants considered suitable for employment was 1.2 per
vacancy. The main reason for rejecting unsuitable job applicants was lack of suitable experience.
Some employers reported receiving overseas applications, particularly from India and China, but
were deemed unsuitable due to poor communication skills. Employers located in regional centres
faced greater recruitment difficulties than those in metropolitan Adelaide. Moreover, some contacts
noted that wage rates in the public sector are relatively low compared to the private sector and this
has led to a loss of staff to private enterprise. Staff turnover is estimated at around 15 per cent.
Labour market outlook
Occupational demand may increase in the longer term due to growth in the area of natural resource
management. Agricultural scientists and advisers are also likely to be required to assist in
evaluating the environmental impact of new mining projects and potential climate change.
Preliminary training commencements data suggest that the number of university graduates is
trending downwards. Therefore, the labour market for agricultural scientists and advisers is
expected to remain in shortage over the next twelve months.

Labour Economics Office South Australia                                                February 2008
Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR)
Agricultural Scientists & Advisers                                                        Tasmania
ASCO Code: 2114-19,21                                                                        April 2008
Labour market rating                  Balance

Occupational demand
There are some difficulties in determining precisely how many people work as agricultural
scientists or advisors due to terminology issues. For example, at the 2006 Census there were 123
agricultural scientists, 84 agricultural advisors, but also 277 environmental and agricultural
scientists that could not be further classified. In addition there are other specialist farm managers,
for example that also may fall under this general area of activity. The total number of agricultural
scientists and advisers increased by about six per cent between 2001 and 2006. In general,
however, demand for agricultural scientists and advisers is linked to levels of activity in the
agriculture industry. Total employment in the agriculture industry in Tasmania has fallen by 21.1
per cent over the last 10 years in Tasmania, through a combination of rationalisation of farm
ownership, and improvements in farming methods and associated technology. However, demand
for scientists and advisors is less likely to be affected by these trends due to their role in improving
farm productivity overall.

Occupational supply

A four year bachelor of agricultural science and a three year bachelor of applied science
(agriculture) are available through the University of Tasmania. There is also a bachelor of applied
science (horticulture), but this is being absorbed into the other bachelor of applied science
(agriculture course). The total number of graduates from these courses over the last five years has
ranged from 16 to 21. One interesting aspect to the University graduation figures is the relatively
high proportion of people who go on to complete a PhD. For example, in 2006 there were 21
people who completed a bachelor degree, while 12 completed a PhD in agricultural science. In
2005, there were 16 people who completed the bachelor degree, while the same number completed
a PhD. Industry sources suggest that this is because a PhD is considered the entry level requirement
for many agricultural research positions, particularly with government agencies.

Employer and industry comments/current labour market
Of the employers who advertised for agricultural scientists and advisors in the lead up to this report,
all managed to fill their vacancies, and all received a good number of suitable applicants. Some
employers indicated that they felt it was becoming increasingly difficult to fill vacancies in this
field, due to a widening of options in recent years for people with an agricultural science
background. The areas of industry research were particularly mentioned as being attractive to
graduates. In addition, it is expected that the number of new graduates will fall over the next few
years due to lower than expected student intakes, three to five years ago.

Labour market outlook
The labour market for agricultural scientists and advisors is currently in balance with advertised
vacancies attracting a good field of suitable applicants. However, some industry sources expressed
concern that demand may outstrip supply, causing shortages in the fields over the next few years.

Labour Economics Office Tasmania                                                             April 2008
Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR)
Agricultural Scientist, Agricultural Adviser                               Northern Territory
ASCO Code: 2114-19,21                                                                   February 2008
Labour market rating                  Shortage

Occupational demand
ABS Census data indicates that there were 61 agricultural scientists and advisers employed in the
Northern Territory (NT) in 2006 and that there had been a marginal decline in employment from five
years earlier. The main agricultural commodities produced in the NT are mangoes, melons and meat
cattle. The NT also has a mature aquaculture industry.
Occupational supply
No agriculture degrees are offered in the NT and so there is a reliance on attracting professionals
from interstate. Employers also commented that New Zealand trained professionals were a
significant potential supply source. The number of agriculture graduates from universities
nationally has declined over the five year period from 2001 to 2006 and further declines are
predicted for the next four years given the number of students currently in training.
Employer and industry comments/current labour market
Contacted employers generally struggled to fill advertised vacancies with a fill rate of just 33 per
cent achieved. Vacancies commonly attracted multiple applicants, however, the potentially suitable
applicants typically were seeking remuneration well beyond the range on offer. Unsuitable
applicants tended to have insufficient experience in a required field (for example horticulture or
aquaculture), poor communication skills (typically overseas applicants) or be lacking management
skills (most vacancies were for senior positions).
There is a strong reliance on attracting applicants from interstate or from New Zealand. Full
relocation packages were offered as a norm, however, employers struggled to attract suitable people
willing to relocate. Employers suggested that professionals tended to be anchored in existing roles
or only interested in moving if a significant salary increase could be secured. Employers also
suggested limited supply of agronomist and aquaculture professionals nationally, combined with the
remoteness of the NT, made attracting these specialists particularly difficult.
Employment for the occupation in the public sector has had a gradual decline due to a government
shift in focus from active assistance to a more facilitating role for the agricultural industry. The
government does, however, remain a significant employer for the occupation and faces difficulties
maintaining required employee numbers.
Employers were concerned that the supply of professionals was becoming more constrained due to
declining graduate numbers and increased wastage of existing professionals. They suggested
wastage (qualified professionals leaving the occupation) occurred due to uncertainty caused by the
drought, lifestyle choice (with people leaving to secure urban/metropolitan work) and retirement.
Although supply nationally was suspected to be reducing, employers suggested the NT had
potential for significantly increased demand given the abundance of space and water.
Labour market outlook
Supply for the occupation is expected to remain constrained. However, demand for agricultural
scientists and advisers is likely to increase over the coming year intensifying the shortage for the

Labour Economics Office Northern Territory                                              February 2008
Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR)

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