Across this school holiday period, twenty year 11 and 12 students from around the North West Region of NSW were offered an Industry Placement Scholarship through the University of New England Primary Industry Centre for Science Education (UNE PICSE). This annual program aims to showcase the broad range of exciting science-based careers supporting the primary industries to these tertiary bound students.
For students, the Industry Placement Scholarship consists of a one week residential camp, one week of industry placement where students work as a scientist alongside researchers or in industry, and a reporting back session. As part of the camp activities, students heard from former CRC PhD student, Dr Nick Rodgers, about the cutting-edge poultry projects taking place at UNE. In particular, students were introduced to closed-circuit calorimeters used in Professor Bob Swick’s CRC (net energy) project.
Students also visited Bede and Narrelle Burke’s ‘Glendon Poultry’ enterprise in Tamworth. Here students were taken on a journey ‘from the paddock to the plate’ in a tour of egg production. Glendon is an efficient, self-sufficient enterprise where feed for the enterprise is grown and milled on site, and waste materials are composted and re-used in cropping.
The industry placement is a chance for students to work with a research scientist or leading industry participant in a primary industry sector, aiding in current research work or the business workings of their mentors for one week. This is a great opportunity for students to follow their interests and gain a deeper understanding of what is involved in working in a scientific field that supports our primary industries, or in primary industry itself. Three students are completing poultry-related activities this year, one working at Glendon and two working alongside research scientists Professor Bob Swick and Drs Nick Rodgers and Shubiao Wu at UNE. “The Poultry CRC is a valuable sponsor of the UNE PICSE program, with poultry-related events becoming a regular feature in the activities offered to students” according to Ms Susanna Greig, UNE PICSE’s Science Education Officer.
Jaynie Ryan, a student at Calrossy Anglican School (Tamworth), commented on her experience with the Burke family, “I value greatly the opportunity to work in an organisation that is so holistic, and it is a great experience to work alongside someone like Bede who has such a passion for his industry and who has great vision and plans for the future of his business. A major highlight for me was to see the candling process as part of the quality control; this is such a great way to look at the quality of the egg shell.”
While visiting Jaynie, Susanna Greig was thrilled to see a former UNE PISCE student, Georgia Rogan, was also working at Glendon during her summer break, before commencing a Bachelor of Rural Science degree at UNE. This young lady had obviously enjoyed her taste test of the poultry industry. Bede commented that “Georgia has just fitted back in, she knows the system, is interested and is helping us again which is just great!”
Lara Gillan and Emma Devos McLean, students from O’Connor Catholic College and Duval High School, respectively, have been introduced to some of the internationally acclaimed poultry nutrition projects based at UNE. Working on cutting-edge scientific research with experts such as Professor Swick has opened the girls’ eyes to the progress the poultry industry is making. “Seeing the calorimeters in use, helping with daily data collection and tasks has been awesome”, said Emma. “After my gap year I am looking forward to studying Animal Science here at UNE.” Lara said she will also be attending UNE to pursue scientific studies.
Students who have been given this scholarship return to UNE in early February to report on their experience. With the examples above, of current and former PISCE students pursuing careers in science, the strength of this program in raising students’ interest in careers relating to the primary production sector becomes apparent. UNE PISCE has the added benefit of including a wealth of poultry-related activities for students; hopefully this will lead to some bright young minds securing our poultry industry’s future.