Traineeships in Beekeeping - Where to now?

Since publishing the Competency Standards in Beekeeping, (January, 2009, p.247), The ABK has received a number of phone calls, letters and emails requesting more information about where interested people could undertake courses.

The reality is that at this point in time there is no one Registered Training Organisation (RTO) which offers a Course whereby a participant can satisfy all the requirements for an Apiary Certificate. Tocal Agricultural College at Paterson does offer NSWDPI courses in Beginning in Bees, Beekeeping as a Business, and Queen Bee Breeding, and the NSWDPI are developing a course in Beekeeping Pests and Diseases. By doing all of these courses, participants would meet most of the requirements to pass the Competency Standards.

There are also some TAFE institutions around the country which offer courses that meet some of the requirements - Bendigo TAFE, and OTEN for example.

The principal problem in getting a full course up and running is - FUNDING. It takes money to develop Courses. In today's economic climate, funds, particularly in Government Departments within cash-strapped State systems, are not readily available. The Commonwealth Government has put in place the Productivity Places Programme, but the emphasis is back on the States to run the Programme. It is thus being run intra-State.

The problem for the Australian Apiary Industry lies in it being such a dispersed industry that none of the individual States have the numbers for an Apiary Course to be run within one State. Any course for Apiary needs to be run on an inter-State basis, where participants are pulled in from all over Australia for a residential school of short duration.

Beekeeping falls outside the realm of the Commonwealth Productivity Places Programme - even if it did meet the criteria, that Programme does not provide the funds to develop the course. DAFF, the Commonwealth Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, did provide the money to get the Competency Standards drawn up, but more money is needed to have the Course developed to teach to those Standards. 

There are, however, impediments to the industry having a traineeship. Firstly, there has not been a strong indication of demand back to Agrifood Skills Australia (The industry coordination body for agriculture etc) nor to Government that there is a demand for people to do a traineeship. As a result the competency standards as they are, have not been put in a way that provides for a specialist bee keeping qualification, ie, Certificate in Agriculture (Apiary). This can be easily done if there is pressure from industry for it to happen. At present, if you were to do a traineeship in apiary, it would be a general agricultural traineeship with some elective units (competencies) of an apiary nature, as distinct from what could be possible (whereby a trainee would do a lot more apiary units.)

Because there is not a specialist apiary course, it is therefore not promoted nor available to be funded on its merits; instead apiary is dealt with as just a general agricultural traineeship.

The second problem is a critical mass of trainees in any one state.

The Vocational Education and Training System is still completely State based, so when the Commonwealth Government has its new funding program for training (Productivity Places Program) it is run by each state doing things a little differently.

There not being a critical mass of interested trainees in any one state, we end up with no traineeships anywhere.

Each state has funding arrangements for trainees to travel and be supported while doing their traineeship. There are no arrangements The ABK knows of that allows for trainees to go between the states.

Tocal is extremely interested in setting up the Apiary Course, and has the expertise and facilities to host residential schools. The NSWDPI has the technical expertise in its Apiculture Section to run the courses. But what is now needed is a drive from the Industry to target the procurement of a funding mechanism to allow Tocal the funds to set up the Apiary Course.

I therefore urge readers to do the following:

1.  Notify The ABK of anybody you know of who wants to undertake training, so that we as an industry publication can collect the names and addresses. Send the details to editor@theabk.com.au

2.  Lobby your local Federal politician to get the Australian Government to coordinate National Training for specialist industries like apiary.

3.  Please keep The ABK informed of any progress you may make.

Author: Des Cannon