Steering the future leaders of Agriculture

Animal Science student, Alana Wade. Photo credits: Hugo Munoz

Representatives from thirteen schools across Western Sydney gathered at the University’s Hawkesbury campus last week to collect their Hereford steers – an animal they will feed, groom and look after for 100 days as part of the University’s annual UniSchools Steer Challenge.

Co-ordinator of the challenge and Adjunct Fellow from the University's School of Science and Health, Stephen Blunden, says the UniSchool challenge not only provides a practical and theoretical introduction to the reality of beef production, but will hopefully also expose young students to careers they never may have thought of before.

“A lot of young people think a career in agriculture is just working on a farm, but it’s much more than that. The opportunities outside the farm gate are enormous – be it sales or marketing, logistics, advisory, consultancy – you name it, it is there. A career in Agriculture means you are joining one of the biggest growth industries in the nation,” says Mr Blunden.

Western Sydney University Animal Science student, Alana Wade, who participated in the UniSchools steer program for over 5 years when she was at Colo High school, says the program was a great motivator for her to enrol in her degree and pursue a career in agriculture.

“The challenge provides an opportunity for students to discuss and communicate with knowledgable representatives within the industry and further develop their knowledge within not only beef production but also the agricultural industry. It offers students a great beginning to develop their skills and knowledge of beef cattle which can give them insight into the agricultural industry,” says Alana Wade.

Mr Blunden says the competition exposes students to the many facets of the agriculture industry – and, in turn, the many career opportunities on offer.

UniSchools Steer Challenge Co-ordinator, Stephen Blunden. 

According to recent figures from the National Centre for Vocational Education Research, more than 122,000 employees will be needed to make up for the expected growth in agriculture as a whole, which now includes roles in agribusiness, food security and technology.

Last year, the industry was also the largest contributor to national GDP growth with the gross value of farm production being estimated by Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) to have reached a record $62.8 billion in 2016-17.

At the completion of the 100-day challenge, students from the participating schools will present their steers at the Hawkesbury Showground where their efforts to raise, grow and train their steer will be judged individually and as a school team.

Group shot of competing schools from 2018 UniSchools Steer Challenge

Competing schools in the 2018 challenge are:

Arndell Anglican College
Bede Polding
Caroline Chisholm College
Chevalier College 
Colo High
Elizabeth Macarthur High
McCarthy Catholic College
Macarthur Anglican School
Knox Grammar
Oakhill College
Richmond TAFE
St Columba Catholic College
Mount Annan Christian School


11 May 2018

Emma Sandham, Senior Media Officer