When I commenced my role at CRT in February 2017, I had several in-depth conversations with members of the network across NSW regarding the challenges faced in today’s rural retail environment.
A recurring theme was the difficulty in finding qualified staff, in particular, quality young men and women who have studied agronomy and are looking for roles in businesses like ours. These conversations demonstrated a real need for a stronger connection with the universities who are training our future potential employees and the graduates themselves.
My initial inquiries led me to Charles Sturt University, Wagga Wagga, and Dr Scott Glyde who has helped develop the curriculum and guide the students studying agricultural science and looking toward a career in agronomy. I was very pleased to find out that things have changed a lot since I graduated over 25 years ago and that a real focus is now given on turning out students with some real world experience who are ‘industry ready.’
The Bachelor of Agricultural Science is a four year degree offered at the Wagga Wagga campus of Charles Sturt University. The graduates CSU supply to all sectors of the agriculture industry are trained as early career professionals to understand the ‘big picture’ in agricultural production. CSU teach their students how to problem solve and give them the skills to cope with an ever changing agricultural environment.
One of the ways CSU achieves this is by offering a 12 week placement program in the middle of the fourth year of study, typically conducted between April and August. By working beside a business or organisation based mentor, students gain important industry related technical and professional skills that simply can’t be taught in the classroom.
Through a mix of relevant theory, practice and industry placement, the students are better prepared by the end of fourth year to commence their first professional position.
The highly successful CSU work placement program can only be achieved through the participation of quality industry partners. Our introduction to the program in 2017 was made very smooth with Ruralco’s Liz Hardaker, Executive General Manager – People & Culture, taking the opportunity to work closely with Dr Glyde to develop a relationship between the university, its undergraduates and Ruralco.*
Together they were able to bring an exceptional Class of 2017 student, Gus Van Tilborg, into the Ruralco business supported by a scholarship during three four week placements within our network at Gloucester Rural Supplies, Gloucester NSW, Rawlinson & Brown, Griffith/Coleambally/Hillston NSW and BR&C Agents, Barham/Swan Hill VIC.
All three businesses were very impressed by Gus during his placement with them and were keen for him to join them full-time upon graduating. Gus was equally impressed with the CRT stores he spent his time with and whilst he found it difficult to choose, he accepted a full-time agronomy position with Rawlinson & Brown at Griffith and is already proving himself a valued full- time member of their agronomy team.
Liz Hardaker has been roundly praised by Dr Glyde for her enthusiasm and effectiveness and for ensuring a quick and painless process in bringing Gus on board at short notice in 2017. Equally, we at Ruralco have been extremely impressed with the communication and support from Scott and his commitment to his CSU students in all the years of their study, and his desire to see them find their place in Australian agriculture matching their skills and interest. It has been a refreshing experience dealing with Scott and we can’t thank him enough for the time and energy he puts in to his role.
Liz and her team have further developed our work placement program with Scott and CSU and we are pleased to say that three more students have been offered and accepted work placement scholarships for 2018. Bryce Elwin of Wagga Wagga, Dale Lane of Bathurst, NSW, and Danyon Williams of Rutherglen, Victoria were chosen from among a worthy group of CSU candidates by our panel and will each spend a total of 12 weeks at CRT locations in NSW, Victoria and South Australia this year.
To prove the worth of our involvement, a number of Class of 2017 graduates have now joined several of their former CSU colleagues in the CRT NSW network including Tyler Austin at Haynes Farm & Hardware, Coolah NSW, Madi Guan at Braidwood Rural, Braidwood NSW and Tom Macleay at Agriwest Rural, Parkes. We welcome them on board and look forward to the wonderful contributions they will no doubt make.
With Liz as our conduit to graduates and undergraduates, the prospects of bringing quality young men and women into agricultural business in 2018 and beyond are exceptionally good.
*CRT is a brand owned by Ruralco.
To find out more about the Ruralco/ CSU Work Placement Scholarship please be in touch with:
Elizabeth Hardaker T: 02 9952 6569