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Industry Future Lies in Skilled Workforce

30 August 2013

AUSTRALIA - As food production methods become increasingly scrutinised by a well-informed public, the poultry industry must be proactive in engaging with the wider community about our farming practices.

TAFE students with Dr Sheridan Alfirevich and Poultry CRC's Liz Roan

As part of keeping the trust, confidence and ‘social licence’ of society, industry must display a competent workforce, whose methodology is consistent and supported by impartial scientific assessment and solid underlying principles.

At the farm level, many employees rely on on-the-job training from their employers, combined with the years of experience of more senior staff, for development of their day-to-day bird management. This informal style of training, while extremely valuable, does have some limitations and in some instances, may perpetuate practices that may not be seen as optimal. The need for a more formal training framework is becoming more evident.

As a response to regulator and industry desire for quality formal training, Poultry CRC, in close collaboration with TAFE New England, has developed Certificate III level units for delivery to broiler and broiler breeder staff. The units written by the CRC are:

  • Administer medication to livestock (AHCLSK301A),
  • Implement animal health control programs (AHCLSK309A),
  • Carry out post-mortem examination of livestock (AHCLSK304A),
  • Identify and report unusual disease or plant pest signs (AHCBIO302A),
  • Implement feeding plans for intensive production (AHCLSK310A), and
  • Monitor livestock production growing environments (AHCLSK313A).

Additional units, which cover areas including QA, WH&S, Brooding Poultry and Animal Welfare are being compiled by TAFE and will join those above in the coming months, finalising the suite forming the full Certificate III.

As Poultry CRC Education Manager, Liz Roan, said: "I’m very pleased to have been working so closely with TAFE. We’ve achieved an extremely positive outcome: carefully crafted materials that are perfectly pitched for Cert III students. The CRC has participated in the writing, editing and typesetting processes, and is now helping source experienced trainers to assist with delivery and roll-out. TAFE has brought their years of experience with course delivery and assessment to the table and, to be fair, borne the brunt of the administrative work. It’s been a successful collaboration which will bring great benefits to the industry."

Ms Roan continued, "One of the best things about this course is its high quality. It’s addressing a real gap. There are just not good quality materials out there that are readily accessible for people who want to train in the poultry industry. For quality to be there, you need two components (1) accurate, informative material authored by industry experts and (2) experienced trainers with skills in delivery who can answer student’s questions with authority. The delivery has to be interesting and relevant to the students or they are not going to take it in and remember it."

On Monday, 26 August, Poultry CRC staff attended Tamworth’s TAFE campus to see first-hand the delivery of unit "Administer medication to livestock." Eleven farm managers and leading hands from poultry companies Baiada Poultry and Pro Ten are currently enrolled. Poultry Veterinarian (and Poultry CRC intern) Dr Sheridan Alfirevich delivered material covering the administration and management of vaccinations, antibiotics, vitamins and electrolytes.

As one attendee noted, "To various degrees each of us has had real-world training, but here we can pick up whether or not these are the best techniques or methods. We can also draw from each other’s wealth of on the job experience."

There was a wide range of experience in the room, from those new to the industry through to managers that had been in the game for decades. A more seasoned manager observed, "While this course reinforces what we do day-to-day, it is of a greater benefit for those newer to the industry. Not that I’m saying it is not relevant to me; I benefit most from having the ability to ask questions of our instructor and my colleagues, and by having many of my preconceptions challenged."

Formalised training avenues for those in the industry, particularly at the farm level, will increase consistency across the board, allow shortfalls to be identified by regulators and give greater confidence to consumers about farming practices. For industry it is the way forward.

Industry training for layer personnel is being undertaken by AECL, with both a Certificate III and a Diploma course. Interested parties should contact AECL directly for more information on their training program. People wishing to undertake training in the broiler industry should contact either the Poultry CRC or New England Institute TAFE.

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