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City kid defies trends to spend a week working with researchers at Dow AgroSciences

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A placement program initiated by Dow AgroSciences Australia in partnership with PICSE is helping a 17-year-old gain practical experience in the agricultural sector.
 
Will Howard grew up in Sydney but chose to move to the country to study his Higher School Certificate at the Armidale School in the New England region. Selected for this year’s professional placement at a Dow AgroSciences field research station at Breeza, New South Wales, Will spent a week in early January travelling an hour and a half every morning to work in temperatures up to 40°C.
 
The partnership between Dow AgroSciences and the Primary Industry Centre for Science Education (PICSE) is part of a long term strategy to attract a future generation of young people to careers in agriculture. With a strong interest in an agricultural career and a passion for science, Will was the perfect candidate for the placement program.
 
Describing his experience at the field research station, Will said that he learnt to measure the age of cotton plants by counting the nodules on the stem of plants above 9cm, and controlling fleabane weed by simply burying the fleabane weed seeds at least 10cm in the soil. During the weeklong placement from January 7 – 11, Will worked with Dow AgroSciences’ team of researchers to investigate the volatility of various chemicals using cotton plants as an indicator species.
 
Dr Matt Cahill, Dow AgroSciences’ Research and Development Leader Australia/New Zealand explains that providing young students with real life industry experience opens their eyes to the many and varied career opportunities in the ag sector.
 
Though Australia is in a prime position to meet the food needs of the next generation, this objective is hampered by an ageing workforce and a shortage of young people considering careers in agriculture. By encouraging the interest of students like Will through hands-on experience, Dow AgroSciences is confident of stemming this decline.
 
Susanna Grieg, Science Education Officer at PICSE, which is based at the University of New England, said Will was an ideal candidate for the placement. She explains that Will’s father is a grain trader and runs two beef stations near Gunnedah and in the Upper Hunter region of New South Wales. Will chose to stay at his father’s property in Gunnedah during the week-long placement, travelling an hour and half to work each day in the soaring heat, which not only reflected his commitment but also suitability to a future career in the agriculture industry.
 
While Will is yet to choose a career path when he joins university next year, the experience has provided him with a few more options to consider. Having originally considered grain trading like his father, he is now evaluating the various opportunities available in the ag sector.
 
On completion of the scholarship, William will present a written report and verbal presentation outlining his experience. He will also receive a $300 scholarship cheque from Dow AgroSciences’ sponsored PICSE program.

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