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Farming to flat whites for young people learning new skills in ongoing drought

Tim Fookes and Kathleen Ferguson, Monday January 27, 2020 - 09:27 EDT
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Beth Ostini hopes to use her new skills to support herself while studying at uni. - ABC

In the summer holidays, Beth Ostini would normally be working on the family farm.

But the drought has meant that kind of work has been harder to come by, so the 19-year-old has headed into town to find work.

With properties lacking livestock and no crops in the ground, young people across New South Wales have had to look at other ways to get skills and qualifications to earn a living.

Ms Ostini said life on her family property at Stuart Town, west of Orange in the state's central west, was tough for everyone.

"Because of the drought, my parents have a decreased income," she said.

"I usually work on my uncles' properties but they don't have any work for me [and] it's so depressing at home, so dry and bare with a lot of dust.

"I need to get out and get my RSA (Responsible Service of Alcohol) licence so I can find work in a bar."

Free training programs for rural youth

To help young people from rural areas between 15 and 24, a training program was established offering the opportunity to gain experience and qualifications to do off-farm work.

The free training courses are being delivered by a State Government program through TAFEs in badly drought-affected communities, including Glen Innes, Manilla, Narrabri, and Molong.

Among the courses offered are hospitality, flying drones, robotics, shearing, and first aid.

In Orange, a four-day intensive hospitality course at TAFE attracted 15 people, mostly from farming properties.

TAFE Western NSW's Amanda Glassop said the course would teach the students about making coffees and mocktails and about hygiene practices essential in the hospitality industry.

"Those off the farm would normally be working around the property but they've had to modify that way of thinking and are having to find other sources of employment," Ms Glassop said.

"What they're doing here will give them immediate access to finding work in a cafe or bar."

Those who passed would be given their RSA licence and Responsible Conduct of Gambling licence, allowing them to find work in licensed establishments.

Part of the course requirement was learning to make cafe-quality coffee using a barista-style coffee machine.

"Some of those taking part have never drunk coffee let alone made one," Ms Glassop said.

"When they began the barista part of the course, they were quite green and wouldn't have known the difference between a latte and a macchiato but young people really do pick things up quickly.

"At the beginning, they think the coffee machine is going to blow up and there'll be disaster at every turn.

"But by the end of of it they can make coffee and you can see the change in their confidence levels."

'Good these courses are free'

Joseph Johns, 18, of Orange left school knowing he needed qualifications to find work during the drought.

"I'm going to have a look at finding work in a cafe," he said.

"It's good these courses are free because at the moment, during drought, a lot of people wouldn't be able to afford it."

Pippa Honan's family run a small property near Molong and she knew she needed to upskill to find work while the drought was on.

"It's good for your stress to move away from the farm and do other things," she said.

"You need income other than the property so you can support yourself if things go bad."


© ABC 2020

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