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Students get a taste of rural work

Close to 100 Wairarapa high school students spent yesterday down on the farm exploring career options in the primary industries, as the rural sector continues to struggle with staff shortages.

In its third year, the ‘Day in the Field’ event involved 90 local year 10 students from eight schools – along with 12 teachers – being given an insight into rural sector work.

Fernhill family farm co-owner Jason Christensen said he was motivated to host the event for the third time to encourage new recruits to meet needs in the industry.

“Everybody in the agriculture sector is struggling for employees, especially dairy, sheep and beef,” he said.

It was a hands-on experience, noted Wairarapa farm mentor BJ Campbell, “seeing what it is really like, rather than just being in the classroom learning about it”.

“Our hope is that being out on farm will spark something in them and inspire them to consider a future in farming.”

Rural Education Activities Programme [REAP] Wairarapa school’s liaison Trudy Sears said participating students either take subjects in agriculture or want to learn about career options in Wairarapa, noting that, “Farming encompasses a wide range of fascinating roles beyond just tending to crops or animals.”

Rural professionals were on hand to explain the ins and outs of jobs related to transport, dairy farming, dogs, fertiliser, veterinary services, banking, stock agents, and native tree planting.

Each professional explained the pathway to enter each career – including the best subjects to take – and various open job positions with an afterschool bridge.

And they appeared to have an appreciative audience – “I loved the fact that people took time out of their busy day to teach us about different types of agricultural industries,” Wairarapa College student Peyton Grant said.

Event organiser Dave Sinton said the event aimed to increase the awareness of careers that “result from farming”.

“Its purpose is not only to inspire and educate Wairarapa young people about the industry but also to inform careers teachers and teachers of agricultural subjects too,” he said.

There certainly appear to be plenty of jobs available.

For example, a 2022 DairyNZ survey indicated that dairy farmers were short-staffed by an average of 1.2 people, and mid-last year Dairy NZ spokesperson Jane Muir said the sector remained “concerned” that New Zealand was “still short”, even though staff shortages had improved in the meantime, estimating that the industry was underhanded by 2500 workers.

The eight schools involved were Tararua College, Kuranui College, Wairarapa College, Mākoura College, Chanel College, St Matthew’s Collegiate, Rathkeale College, and Ponatahi School.

The companies supporting the event included Fernhill Christensen Farming Ltd, Fonterra Transport, Martinborough Transport, Beef and Lamb NZ, Bengston Contracting, John Griffith and Co Ltd Stock Agents, Rabobank, Greater Wellington Regional Council, South Wairarapa Vets, and Ravensdown.

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