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Completed project

Attracting new entrants into Australian horticulture – promoting careers in horticulture (LP15006)

Key research provider: Rimfire Resources
Publication date: Sunday, December 18, 2022

What was it all about?

From 2016 to 2022, this project built capacity in people in the horticultural industry, by developing future leaders. The program increased graduate interest in careers across the Australian horticulture sector, built a pool of industry leaders, and create networks of young professionals.

Rimfire Resources worked with Hort Innovation and industry to develop a tailored program that delivered high quality young professionals, committed to a career in the horticultural industry.

The Graduate Engagement and Leadership program addressed some of the challenges of building future leaders and promoting careers in horticulture.  This unique two-phase program set out to find and attract the right people, then train them in leadership skills and launch them into their careers in Australian horticulture.

Project results

  • 43 university candidates were placed at 33 individual horticultural businesses. This was across the supply chain and included: horticultural producers, input suppliers, marketing and distribution, research, and consultancy.
  • The students originated from nine different universities across 5 states and 22 different degrees.
  • 42 out of 43 candidates completed phase one (10-week internship), 30 went on to complete phase two (12 months graduate position) with the same or a replacement business.
  • 25 graduates completed the Australian Rural Leadership Foundation Introduction to Leadership training course.
  • 30 of the original 43 candidates have remained in the horticultural sector. Three have remained in the broader agricultural sector.

Most host companies that participated in the program reported that the most attractive feature features were:

  • Funding support, particularly in the search and selection of students.
  • Support in the development of internal graduate program frameworks.
  • Leadership development training for the graduate once employed.

Many of the companies returned for additional placements in the following years and several are continuing to source graduates for their businesses, despite funding ceasing. All host companies surveyed said they would look at hiring a graduate again after their experience with the program.

Students that participated in the program came from a variety of backgrounds, some had already considered horticulture as a career and others had not. The program was a useful platform to promote careers in horticulture to university students, as it demonstrated a wide range of opportunities in a variety of disciplines. 70 per cent of graduates who participated remained in the horticultural sector beyond their first year of employment and roughly 65 per cent after more than two years. 

To ensure graduates continued to be hired after the completion of the project, the program familiarised host companies with pre-existing commercial platforms to hire graduates. Some companies have already accessed paid services to facilitate hiring graduates into their businesses.

There are recommendations in the final report on how to leverage on the success of the program and continue to add value to the horticulture industry in a practical way, to support the building of young leaders’ capacity in the industry.


This project involved levy from the apple and pear, nursery and vegetable industries, in addition to other funding sources, and was funded through the Hort Frontiers Leadership Fund