Each year, the Rural Industries Research & Development Corporation (RIRDC) awards a number of Horizon Scholarships, open to any first-year Australian university student enrolled in an agriculture-related degree. This year's Scholars will be announced in May; VCE students planning to undertake tertiary agricultural studies next year can apply for 2018 Horizon Scholarships from late 2017.
In the 21st century, agriculture is set to become “an increasingly valuable career pathway with a high take-up of new technology and innovation”, states the RIRDC. Already, the industry offers a diverse array of jobs for tertiary graduates in disciplines such as biochemistry, agricultural engineering, in-field agronomy, policy advice, investment analysis, and industrial relations.
Currently, the agricultural sector faces the pressing challenge of ramping up sustainable production to enable us to feed a growing global population with limited resources in the face of a changing and uncertain climate.
According to the RIRDC, its Horizon Scholar program was initiated “to support the next generation of agricultural leaders, who will take up the challenge of farming for the future”.
“It is for young people who are passionate about agriculture, with a keen interest in the future of our industries and who are ready to expand their networks and learn new skills,” the RIRDC states on its website.
What’s in it for the Scholars?
Each Horizon Scholar is awarded $5,000 per year for the duration of his or her degree.
The Scholarship program also includes yearly two-week ag-industry placements, professional development support and high-level networking opportunities, including an annual Horizon conference and access to an array of agriculture-related events, giving Scholars the chance to meet and discuss issues with industry leaders.
RIRDC Managing Director John Harvey said the Horizon Scholarship program provides tangible, practical benefits for participating Scholars that help them acquire the knowledge and connections they need to become the next generation of industry leaders.“The students involved in the Horizon Scholarship are expanding their networks and learning new skills. Combined with easing the financial burden on students and families, the Scholarship is opening doors for these future agricultural leaders," he said. "The Scholarship attracts students who are collaborative, dynamic, passionate and want to be future leaders of Australia’s agricultural industries. It is special group of young people, and we look forward to welcoming more of them into the Scholarship in 2017.”
What do previous Horizon Scholars think?
Horizon alumnus Paul Sanderson, who studied ag science at Charles Sturt University in Wagga Wagga, has returned to the family cropping and Merino sheep property near St Arnaud, Victoria, with a slew of industry know-how, skills and contacts.
“The industry networks I’ve gained through Horizon will definitely help somewhere along the line, no matter what pathway I take,” Sanderson says. “It really is the all-round package for young people wanting to get into agriculture – it’s a great program because agriculture really needs a lot more people getting on board.”
For Ashlee Hammond, who grew up on a dairy farm, the Horizon Scholarship program was “the best support available”. Hammond, who did an Agricultural Science degree with an honours thesis in dairy nutrition at LaTrobe University, was supported by Horizon throughout.
“It sounds really clichéd but this program really does broaden your horizons,” she says. “Not only do you get the professional development skills like leadership, teamwork and networking, but you also get to hear about other scholar's experiences in all sorts of industries.”
Currently completing a Masters in Agribusiness part-time while working as a project and policy officer with United Dairyfarmers of Victoria (UDV), Hammond was also chosen to be an active member of the Young Farmer Ministerial Advisory Council (YFMAC), advising government on recruiting and retaining young people in agriculture.
“I’ve always been supported by the industry so I’m really passionate about supporting youth and increasing the awareness of the opportunities that young people can have in agriculture. The YFMAC is a fantastic opportunity to communicate directly with the decision-makers,” she told industry web portal People in Agriculture http://www.peopleinag.com.au/ in August 2016.
“I am looking forward to a career that is focused on the dairy industry and allows me to remain involved with both women and youth in agriculture groups,” Hammond said. “Supporting young farmers and women is crucial to the future success of the industry and I hope I can play some role in ensuring the industry has a strong future.”
Horizon alumnis talk about their experiences...
Check out these Horizon alumni videos:
Read and listen to current and former Horizon Scholars’ accounts of how the program benefitted them.
Am I eligible for a Horizon Scholarship?
To be eligible for a Horizon Scholarship, you must be entering your first year of university, studying a degree related to agriculture, such as:
- agricultural science,
- rural science,
- livestock/animal science,
- veterinary science,
- plant science,
- agricultural economics,
- resource management,
- sustainability and/or
- food security.
You must have begun your tertiary studies no more than two years after leaving high school.
How are Scholars selected?
According to the RIRDC, Horizon Scholarship recipients are selected on the basis of “their commitment to a career in agriculture, as well as their leadership potential and high-school academic record”.
How do I apply?
Download, fill in and send back the official application form, which can be downloaded from the RIRDC website’s Horizon Scholarship page - or contact the RIRDC on 02 6923 6900 to have an application form sent to you. Applications for 2018 Horizon Scholarships close in mid-February 2018, and shortlisted applicants need to be available for a telephone interview sometime in March, with winners announced in May.