The lightbulb snapped on for Ash Miles when one of her workers crashed a $600,000 tractor into a tree. The tractor needed repairing, the field never got planted and Miles missed an entire season’s crop. Her brother, Jarryd Rae, also a farmer had faced similar problems finding workers who had the requisite skills and experience.
In a sector like agriculture where there might be only 3-4 week windows for planting, having ready access to skills can mean the difference between a good and a bad year.
Miles and Rae also wanted a way to identify workers’ skills gaps – so that they could help fix them and encourage rural people to develop their skills and stay on the land.
Their start up, The Training Paddock, is developing a mobile application that will keep track of farm workers’ skills, experience and training. Besides providing an instant snapshot to employers of a worker’s capabilities – it also acts as an incentive to farm workers to boost their skills and upgrade their Training Paddock profile, making them more employable and valued because their skills are made visible.
While many farm workers have TAFE qualifications which bring with them formal certification, of the 300,000 on farm workers in Australia, about half have no formal post-school qualifications and most skills are learned on the job.
Australia-based, The Training Paddock provides a trusted on-farm accreditation system to allow workers to record the skills gained while working on farms.
As that skill is validated and rated by the employer, it builds trust within the farming community. The platform leverages a mobile website allowing farmers and employees to use their smartphones to access and update the platform.
A visual dashboard which tracks Work health & Safety, unique hard skills and relevant soft skills is being developed to provide and instant understanding of what a worker is capable of today and where their skills could be improved to ensure they have a long term future in the industry.
Working together, the worker and the farmer can fill in the skills gaps through formal training, or by pairing a worker with a more experienced employee. The Training Paddock is being designed to support a range of rural industries including large pastoral enterprises, meat processing businesses and mixed farming.
As co-founders of the business Miles and Rae see this as a way to validate a worker’s capability and experience in order to build skilled workforces in regional and rural towns and help arrest the hollowing out that can take place when people move away because of a perceived lack of local opportunity. The Training Paddock puts individuals in control of their own professional development, and acts as a trusted reference for potential employers.
The visibility that The Training Paddock will provide means that farmers looking to hire staff for particular tasks can see at a glance which workers have the requisite skills, streamlining the time to hire.
The solution has value for full time employees, contractors, workers on 457 Visas and backpacker labour seeking second year visas. It also has international potential – and data gathered from the platform should help inform the strategy of education providers.