Jackie Jarvis is a farmer from Margaret River who, together with her husband, is a commercial wine grape grower. She has a finance industry and agri-business background and now works in the Not for Profit sector offering employment services.
Jackie is currently the Western Australian (WA) State Manager for MADEC Australia, an organisation that manages the “Harvest Trail” on behalf of the Federal Government – providing seasonal workers, such as backpackers, for the horticultural industry.
There is a perceived shortage of Australian residents wanting agricultural work and farms find it hard to attract workers to the regions, often relying on backpackers to fill full-time roles.Jackie explains, “farmers pass on valuable skills to new workers. Unfortunately those skills are lost to that farm business when workers leave, and backpackers generally leave after three months. This is okay if you have only a couple of months of fruit picking work – but it is not ideal if you have a full time dairy hand job.”
“Many farmers are recruiting and training new staff up to 4 times a year – for one job role. It is a waste of their time and significantly affects the productivity of their business.”
Seeking a solution, Jackie found that there were large numbers of new migrants, such as resettled refugees living in Perth, seeking employment. Many come from subsistence farming backgrounds, and are ideally suited to permanent farming jobs.
In 2013 Jackie engineered and implemented a six month migrant employment pilot program offering a job matching service for WA farmers and migrants seeking farm work. The pilot, funded by the WA Office of Multicultural Interests, has placed over 30 participants into full time employment, short term jobs, paid work experience opportunities and on-farm training.
“My Rural Woman’s Award ambition is to showcase the successful placements through a series of video postcards from the new migrants now living and working
in regional WA, and the farms that have employed them.”
Jackie says “Australian farmers are highly skilled and I would love to showcase the benefits of passing on these skills to permanent workers. This project has the potential to stop the endless cycle of recruitment and training of backpacker labour and instead to find permanent workers wanting to settle in regional communities.”Jackie wants this project to change the way we look at helping farmers.
“There are some great programs around, funded by Government, that offer training and advice to workers considering agriculture and there has been an active move to up-skill our farm workers. There also needs to be practical, personalised support to farmers wanting to recruit staff. By asking farmers what they want and helping them find the right workers, we can change the future of rural businesses.”
Whilst the video postcards project will showcase new migrants, Jackie explains that this type of project could be applied to urban school leavers or mature workers looking for a “tree change.”
“There are people living in our cities, willing to relocate, who are suitable for farming jobs. The key is asking farmers what they need and finding the right person for the job. I want to lead a new wave of migration from urban areas by showcasing the great jobs, the great towns, and the great people that live in regional WA.”