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On-farm training growing the future

Joe Diederich, Steve Gray, Tawera Rautahi, Angus Speedy, Taylah Fergusson Smith, Brooke Borjesson-Schlup and Pat Mitchell training at Castlepoint. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

In a big win for the Wairarapa Farming sector, the region is actively partnering with an innovative programme to train New Zealand’s farmers of the future.

Last week the new on-the-job programme hosted eight trainees and eight trainers at Castlepoint as the students were put through their paces.

Growing Future Farmers [GFF] chief executive officer Cyn Smith was in Castlepoint for the event. She said the increasingly popular programme had evolved from a small pilot in Gisborne in 2019, with funding from the Provincial Growth Fund [PGF].

“It’s bringing training out of the classroom and on to the farm,” she said.

“It’s an entry-level qualification for school-leavers, focusing on the sheep, beef and deer.”

The students completed their vehicle training assessment at Castlepoint over two days.

“The students have really enjoyed it,” Smith said.

“They come together as a group every two weeks. They have a very nice regional group, and they help each other with assignments and other things. They work collaboratively.

“Being a national pilot, there have been a lot of challenges, but we are really happy with how it’s going.”

There were only 10 students – five from Wairarapa and five from Gisborne – in the programme’s first year in 2020.

This year there were 50 first-year students from right across the country, including Wairarapa, King Country, Gisborne, Hawke’s Bay, Taihape and five from the South Island.

The free-to-students farm-and-skills based programme was initially run by the Eastern Institute of Technology [EIT] in Hawke’s Bay. Still, students were based on individual farms with regular block release training.

The GFF essential farm skills qualification involved completing national certificates in primary industries and a certificate in agriculture.

All 10 of the first intake last year graduated to the second and final year of the course.

The farming sector had embraced the programme, with students regularly being offered fulltime jobs well before graduation.

“We are pretty excited about the progress we have made, and it’s certainly addressing a need,” Smith said.

“We have many students who don’t come from a farming background.

“It’s a good segue from having no idea about working on a farm to being job-ready.

“This has addressed a gap for young people going into farming.”

On completion of the two-year course, graduates would go into farm employment in shepherding and other positions.

Based on farms, the students get formal training in areas such as vehicles, tractors, fencing, health and safety, well-being, finance, and communication in their first year.

The second-year was more agriculture-specific, with modules including stock, animal welfare and soil.

Attached to and sponsored by a farm, the students were provided with accommodation and paid $180 a week. Generally, they would stay with the same farm throughout the course.

“The long-term goal is to move into 12 regions, but we want to get the model right first,” Smith said.

The GFF model aimed to provide a career pathway for young people into the sheep, beef and deer industry that was financially accessible, industry-respected and employer-led.

The programme also aimed to share Kaitiakitanga values of guardianship and responsibility to make an essential contribution to Aotearoa New Zealand’s food and fibre sectors.

An open day for interested future students would be held on July 1 from 10am-2pm at Palliser Ridge, 226 Te Rara Rd, Featherston.

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