NEW workers starting at Victorian horticulture businesses will be brought up to speed to start employment sooner with an online training package supported by the State Government.

Minister for Agriculture Jaclyn Symes has announced $70,000 for SuniTAFE to develop the Horticulture Farm Worker Induction Program, as part of the $50 million Agriculture Workforce Plan.

The program will help upskill new workers and allow them to quickly gain an understanding of the horticulture industry. 

It also aims to ensure that a reliable harvesting workforce is trained and ready for the 2020 season and beyond.

The program will be rolled out over the next eight months and includes development of 12 inter-
active units covering topics such as industry awareness, safety, machinery use and harvesting skills.

Sections of other TAFE-accredited courses will be included to make the transition to certificate and diploma qualifications easier for workers wanting to further upskill in the future.

The training will be free for the industry and jobseekers, including those registered with Working for Victoria.

SuniTAFE CEO Geoff Dea said the shortage of skilled labour in the local horticulture industry was directly impacting the region’s ability to get valuable crops to the market. 

“This initiative is designed to help fill this gap and provide employment opportunities for local people,” he said.

Local industry stakeholders also expressed their enthusiasm for the program. 

“Dried fruits are enjoying strong markets at the moment and we are entering a period of growth,” Dried Fruits Australia CEO Anne Mansell said. 

“Our sector will be relying on a skilled workforce to drive this growth. 

“We see this as an excellent opportunity to support people in the local community whose own work situations have been recently affected. 

“Who knows, they may never have considered a role in horticulture and we hope this might open their eyes to the fantastic opportunities.”

Citrus grower Tania Chapman said the trial had great potential. 

“Showing people exactly what’s required when they turn up for work on a farm like ours is a great first step, and is an ideal precursor to the training we provide in relation to their ethical and legal rights,” she said.

Wine grape grower Greg Hutchison was equally as positive in his assessment of the initiative.

“This opportunity to give a birds-eye view of farm work eliminates a lot of guesswork,” he said.

“People will soon work out whether farming is, or isn’t for them. That will assist us greatly.”

Other measures in the Workforce Plan include business adaptation grants to help workplaces meet health and physical distancing requirements, the creation of more than 80 agricultural jobs through catchment management authorities, and funding for worker relocation, transport and training.

For more details or to register interest as a jobseeker or business, visit agriculture.vic.gov.au/agworkforceplan.