Funding stitches up deal for budding cotton careers

Minister for Agricultural Industry Development and Fisheries and Minister for Rural Communities The Honourable Mark Furner

The Palaszczuk Government has matched funding from Cotton Australia for a pilot program to attract up to 200 young people to work in the cotton industry.

Minister for Agricultural Industry Development and Fisheries and Minister for Rural Communities Mark Furner said the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF) had contributed $30,000 to Cotton Australia’s $60,000 workforce attraction pilot program to address COVID-19 induced worker shortages as part of Queensland’s Economic Recovery Plan.

“As we unite and recover from COVID-19, this funding arrangement sows the seeds for budding careers in the cotton industry,” Mr Furner said.

“Cotton Australia’s program aims to attract 200 mainly university graduates and high school leavers into the cotton industry in time for the 2021-22 cotton season, which starts in November 2021.

“On average, 40 per cent of the national cotton crop is produced in Queensland and getting behind this exciting pilot program is a practical example of the Palaszczuk Government’s support for the state’s agribusinesses.

“I congratulate Cotton Australia’s initiative in developing this pilot program which aligns with DAF’s commitment to support local solutions to meet the seasonal workforce needs of Queensland’s agribusinesses.”

Cotton Australia General Manager Michael Murray said the pilot program planned to use a digital platform to find, match and manage employees and employers.

“The platform will register all participants, capture data and track and monitor participants throughout the entire workforce engagement,” Mr Murray said.

“The web site associated with the program will provide wrap-around services including matching employees with mentors, social events and quality fee-free housing.

“Incentives to attract workers include attractive wages and accommodation, and the possibility of being eligible for a range of State and Federal regional labour assistance programmes.

“While the digital platform is a key part of this project, an equally important part will be an active recruitment campaign to be carried out across Queensland’s university campuses.

“Although the pilot program is primarily focussed on linking university students and recent year 12 graduates, Cotton Australia will also explore options to target other jobseekers including unemployed and underemployed people, migrants, and refugees.”

Mr Furner said investing in Cotton Australia’s pilot program could be a game changer in addressing seasonal worker shortages.

“The program is a blueprint for encouraging and enabling city-based university and final year school students to get a start in the agriculture industry with the real prospect of longer-term placements in agricultural positions,” Mr Furner said.

“There has never been a better opportunity to travel to rural and regional Queensland to work on cotton farms for short, medium and longer term guaranteed paid work contracts, in a carefully structured, industry supported scheme.

“Learnings from this innovative program will be made available to other sectors of the agriculture industry to weave into their worker attraction initiatives.”

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