Cotton Gap

A future-focused industry program connecting school leavers with farmers and exposing them to the diverse range of careers available in the cotton industry.

Background

Cotton Australia launched the Cotton Gap program in 2017-18 to expose school leavers to the diverse range of careers on offer in the Australian cotton industry. With the world’s population set to reach more than 10 billion in the next 90 years, a skilled and efficient workforce needs to be ready to feed and clothe the world. The Cotton Gap program is a tool to encourage the next generation to consider future employment opportunities associated with primary production.

Benefits for students

If you haven’t considered a career in cotton, now’s the time to start because there is something on offer for everyone. From machinery operators, bug checkers, irrigation specialists, farm hands, crop consultants, drone operators and scientists; to fashion designers, communication specialists, policy officers, lawyers and network engineers.

The Cotton Gap program introduces young people to the wide range of careers on offer and allows them to make important connections with rural professionals. This is an opportunity to break out of known constraints, get inspired, explore, act and rethink your future career path. This first-hand experience will highlight the multitude of gateways and paths that your career can take and elevate your overall understanding of the various systems and processes within agriculture.

Benefits for industry

Cotton Gap is a future-focused industry program that engages with the next generation of workers to secure a skilled and enthusiastic workforce for seasons to come. The closure of international boarders in 2020 due to COVID-19 will see an additional 20,000 students who had planned to travel overseas for a gap year now looking for alternate experiences on home soil. This is a great opportunity for the Australian cotton industry to attract a new cohort of students to experience farm life and all it has to offer as a future career pathway.

Matt Clearwater

Matt Clearwater completed Cotton Gap in 2017, working on 'Keytah', a property located west of Moree, NSW. Matt was originally from Canberra with no farming background, but thanks to his Cotton Gap experience is now hooked on cotton. Matt is studying agriculture at the University of New England and is planning to pursue a career in cotton agronomy. Matt continues to do casual work for 'Keytah' during university breaks and spent last summer on a cotton property in the Riverina, NSW.

“When I started at ‘Keytah’, I didn’t know where I wanted to go career-wise when I left school, apart from wanting to do something in ag … You’ve got nothing to lose, it is definitely worth a go. It is a great way to spend a year (or more), and it gives you time to learn new skills or use previously established skills.” – Matt Clearwater, 2020

Program structure

The timing of the Cotton Gap program is flexible and dependent on available positions during the season. Growers who have been approved as a suitable employer (myBMP accredited, respected and active in their local community), will post available job descriptions that will be circulated to students who have registered to be part of the program. Students then apply directly to the grower who, with support from Cotton Australia, will interview and select the candidate that best meets their requirements. Each role will have a specific date-range, location and position description.

Details concerning accommodation, catering provisions, remuneration and any work health and safety requirements will also be listed in the job advertisement. All growers involved in Cotton Gap are expected to follow the general pay and conditions listed in the Pastoral Award.

Once a student has accepted a placement, Cotton Australia will provide an introduction to the industry, program and online learning modules covering relevant WHS and operating procedures. Cotton Australia regional managers will also check in with the employee throughout the duration of their placement to ensure they are getting value out of their experience and supported appropriately. Growers will also provide a detailed induction once on the farm.

How do I get involved?

Cotton growers who are interested in being part of the Cotton Gap program are encouraged to contact their Cotton Australia Regional Manager.

Students, schools or associations are also encouraged to register their interest by emailing [email protected]

Please note a maximum of ten placements will be facilitated by Cotton Australia each growing season.