Horticulture Skills Study

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In early 2017, through RDA Riverina’s relationships with the local horticulture industry, we became aware of a skills shortage. Growers expressed difficulty in finding skilled staff after advertising widely. Affected horticulture industries in the Riverina include irrigated crops of citrus, tree nuts, vegetables, stone fruit, wine grapes and the cooler climate apple industry.

With the Riverina region producing: 

  • One third NSW fruit and nuts - $271 million 
  • One third NSW vegetables - $141 million 
  • Half NSW wine grape production - $81 million 

This skills issue has had an enormous impact and will continue to impact on economic development in the Riverina and as well as NSW if solutions are not found.

RDA Riverina’s Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme (Subclass 187 visa) (RSMS) enables regional employers to sponsor overseas skilled workers and employ them in skilled positions that cannot be filled using the local labour market. We found that the horticulture industry was using RSMS at a higher rate than before. RDA Riverina sought funding from the NSW Government to conduct a study to establish and validate the extent of the issue and formulate policy responses to address these skills shortages. This formed part of a broader study across NSW of skills needs. In June 2017, RDA Riverina engaged RMCG to lead this investigation.

Cristy Houghton