A labour squeeze has left the region's dairy industry "screaming" for help but a $1 million trial aims to fast-track vulnerable and unemployed youths onto farms.
Fifty south-west applicants will be given on-farm training as part of the newly-announced AgFutures Initiative.
The program will provide them with the foundational knowledge they will need to complete Certificate II and III qualifications in agriculture, horticulture, conservation and land management.
Speaking at a Southern Cross farm on Thursday, Minister for Training and Skills and Higher Education Gayle Tierney said the pilot program was desperately needed.
"We've been screaming for labour and skills in the dairy industry for a long time," she said.
"But this means we'll be able to target and direct opportunities in a way we haven't done before.
"We are focused on targeting vulnerable and unemployed young people and making sure they're given an opportunity, provided with confidence and given an absolute, real pathway to a job that is here in their local community.
"We want them to stay in dairy, but if they don't, we definitely want them to stay in agriculture. This is going to be a real test case for the way we go about doing these sorts of things in other industries."
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The program will be led by The Brotherhood of St. Laurence in partnership with South West TAFE and will be held on host-farm Rosemount Dairy in Southern Cross.
SWT director of strategy and research John Flett said the pilot program posed a possible solution to a number of issues.
"The AgFutures project is an exciting initiative that will give young people disengaged from work and learning a new opportunity to find work in the food and fibre sector with some of the region's most forward-thinking employers," he said.
The initiative is being supported by partners including Skills Impact, Dairy Australia, Food & Fibre Great South Coast and Brophy Family and Youth Services and local employers such as Apostle Whey and WestVic Dairy.
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