Agribusiness leaders have welcomed moves to tackle a skills shortage in the industry by restoring a tertiary business degree course at Muresk Institute.
The traditional career launching pad for rural industry leaders in WA looks set to reopen after the CY O'Connor Institute and Charles Sturt University in NSW reached an in-principle agreement to offer a bachelor of agricultural business management at Muresk from next year.
Muresk was WA's only rurally-based, tertiary agricultural education facility until last year when the final graduates in a course offered via Curtin University passed through its gates at Northam.
Gavilon Grain general manager Matt Rutter said the international grain trader had been unable to secure Muresk graduates during a major recruiting drive over the past two years.
Mr Rutter, a Muresk graduate, said it was a shame there were not enough graduates to meet industry demand. "The thing about Muresk graduates is that they are passionate about the industry and they specifically want to work in the agriculture space," he said.
"We have been able to recruit a very good team but from an industry point of view in general you want people who are going to stay in the industry so that you are not losing skills and experience."
Westpac's general manager of agribusiness in WA, Ben Marini, said the bank had been forced to look interstate for graduates in recent years.
"Getting graduates in agribusiness here in WA has been problematic and I would love to be able to source graduates out of Muresk if they were available," he said.
Muresk introduced Australia's first agribusiness degree almost 40 years ago and blazed a trail followed by universities throughout the country and New Zealand.
The State Government came under fire for failing to preserve Muresk's tertiary status last year when the Department of Training and Workplace Development took over the running of the institute.
Agribusiness Alumni Association president Ian Fairnie said the move to save a Muresk-based degree was "belated but better late than never".
Dr Fairnie, a former Muresk director, echoed industry concerns about the four-year wait for the next batch of Muresk graduates to enter the job market.
"From what I understand of the Charles Sturt program it is very much built on the foundations laid by Muresk," he said.
"There is now going to be a gap of four years but there is light at the end of the tunnel and, after visiting Wagga and meeting the dean, this is a degree I would recommend."