CLAIMS that a popular school agricultural program that reaches over 10,000 Queensland students a year is no longer relevant has been slammed by the peak agricultural body.
Agriculture Minister Mark Furner this week justified the State Government’s decision to axe funding for the School to Industry Partnership Program, telling parliament that it was no longer as relevant as it was when it was introduced over a decade ago.
AgForce CEO Michael Guerin today came out swinging against the claims, saying if the government had increased annual funding as the industry group had requested, it could reach more children across the state.
He said polling conducted for National Ag Day last year showed that 83 per cent of Australians described their connection with farming as distant or non-existent, meaning that teaching school children where their food comes from was now more relevant than ever.
“Agriculture is one of the fastest growing industries in the country, and many of the current and future jobs in the sector require skills in science, technology, engineering and mathematics,” Mr Gruerin said.
“The industry is already facing skills shortages and that will only get worse if the Queensland Government axes a program that showcases to high school students the many and varied careers in agriculture.”
Mr Guerin said the SIPP program engaged with 10,000 students a year with just two part time staff and a budget of only $180,000.
He said it could reach twice that many if the Queensland Government restored and increased the funding as AgForce had requested.
“The School to Industry Partnership Program consistently exceeded its deliverables which was proven through detailed quarterly reports.
“Neither the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries or the Minister, have ever raised any concerns with how the program was delivered or its relevance.”
The SIPP program started in 2004 as a way to connect school communities with agriculture and teach kids about life on the land and where their food comes from.
It will cease on December 31 this year, after the State Government elected not to renew the funding.
Mr Furner told parliament on Tuesday that the SIPP had played a vital role in connecting school communities with agriculture.
“However, the program has limited reach given the large number of schools throughout the state and the cost of extending that reach equitably across Queensland is prohibitive,” Mr Furner said.
“The evolving school curriculum with an increased focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics and the success of targeted agriculture education programs such as the Agribusiness Gateway Schools to Industry Program also means that SIPP is not as relevant as it was when it was commenced over a decade ago.
“For these reasons no funding has been allocated for the continuation or expansion of the SIPP beyond 31 December 2018.”