On-farm training in focus

Workfit Essential’s first cohort of 17 participants will get the unique experience of receiving 10 weeks of on-farm training in the core production skills of planting, weeding, harvesting, and packing. Pictures: QAWN

Janne Dipple describes herself as a woman who wears two hats.

With 20 years’ experience working in adult education and training Mrs Dipple has designed and run training across all kinds of subjects.

Her other ‘hat’ is as a horticultural grower working alongside husband Brendan running the family farm Bare Essentials.

They have grown leafy green vegetables and herbs on their Morton Vale property since 1997, but activity in the paddocks looks different today with Mrs Dipple’s new project Workfit Essentials kicking off at the end of March.

Through Workfit Essentials, Mrs Dipple has brought together her two areas of expertise.

With funding from Workforce Australia Local Jobs, Mrs Dipple has designed the program to provide benefits for both jobseekers and employers.

Someone seeking a career in horticulture can get a well-rounded training program that includes paid work, official credentials, career guidance and coaching.

Meanwhile, prospective employers can see ‘Workfit Essentials’ on a candidate’s résumé and know that person has received comprehensive training and is work-ready.

Importantly, each Workfit Essentials graduate finishes the program armed with what Mrs Dipple calls a ‘horti-career map’.

Mrs Dipple said although establishing and running the program is a costly exercise, it fills an important gap in training people for a career in horticulture.

“There are a lot of really good training programs out there, but nothing actually teaches a person the actual grit it takes to physically do the job, to understand the diversity and the breadth of the industry, and to be trained in a commercial farming environment,” Mrs Dipple said.

“This was my big chance to take that knowledge about adult education and creating training and actually putting it here on our own farm and trying to embed it into the everyday operations, which is pretty hard to do.”

Queensland Agricultural Workforce Network (QAWN) officer for Southern Queensland Liz Ford has liaised with Mrs Dipple as the first cohort progressed

Growcom is the project delivery arm of the Queensland Fruit and Vegetable Growers and hosts two QAWN officers in Southern and Southeast Queensland.

Liz is keen to get to know the participants and their aspirations so she can match participants with employers that will be the best fit for business and candidates alike.

The program’s first cohort of 17 participants will get the unique experience of receiving 10 weeks of on-farm training in the core production skills of planting, weeding, harvesting, and packing.

Participants will also learn about specialist skills including crop growing, machinery operations, processing and dispatching orders, groundskeeping, as well as teamwork and leadership.

In addition to the hands-on learning, participants work towards eight competencies Mrs Dipple has designed, delivered through UQ Skills at the university’s Gatton campus.

It’s a complex task, but the first cohort of participants have enjoyed getting stuck-in to work on the farm. Twenty-three-year-old Toowoomba local Lexy is enjoying her experience in horticulture so far.

The physical nature of the work has not bothered her, having already done planting, weeding, and picking.

Meanwhile, Gary has traded in a 20-year hospitality career on Daydream Island to learn about horticulture with the goal of running a flower farm with his sister.

The 49-year-old said he was sure his sister would have him doing the ‘hard yakka’ when they have a farm of their own.

The first cohort of Workfit Essentials participants will graduate in early June, with a new intake scheduled to commence in July.