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Horticulture Industry Move Helps Combat Labour Shortage

New Horticulture Industry Initiative Helps Combat Labour Shortage

A new ‘hands on’ initiative, which brings the classroom into the orchard, is helping combat the labour shortage in the horticulture industry.

The Eastern Institute of Technology (EIT), Work and Income and local iwi have teamed up with John Bostock, owner of JM Bostock Ltd, to help get people off the unemployment benefit and into permanent employment.

The partners have worked together to establish an EIT level three sustainable fruit production course, which has both theory and practical modules. The theory mirrors the orchard cycle to enhance the student’s learning. In 2014 the programme will start earlier in the year to better coincide with orchard practice.

Mr Bostock who provides an orchard for the training course says the programme is a high quality-training scheme that ticks the right boxes for growers with real job prospects at the end for graduates.

“The key for us is getting these trainees into full time employment rather than just seasonal jobs. We are helping up-skill them, so they can easily apply what they learn to a real job in the orchard.”

Fourteen students completed in November 2013, and all gained employment.

Jason Cunningham and his two sons graduated from the course in November and moved into permanent employment with JM Bostock Ltd.

"We have job security now, so it takes the stress away. I used to get really low when I knew the seasonal work was coming to an end and I had to go back on the Dole. But this course now gives me more purpose in life and real direction.”

Graduate Bill Neilson who also moved into a full time job with JM Bostock Ltd says the course has opened doors for him.

“Two years ago, I was being a dole bludger, doing nothing but sitting on the couch and now I’m out in the sun picking apples. I look forward to getting up each day now. I’m setting a good example to my children by working. It gives them the incentive to get out there and work for a living too."

EIT Horticulture tutor, Erin Simpson says that having the classroom on an orchard helps the students get beneficial hands on experience. While teaching the theory, Erin was able to take students from the classroom into the orchard to bring the theory to life.

“Industry buy-in has been key to this course taking off. It ensures that we are providing programmes to meet industry needs. The students start with pruning, pest and disease control, tractor driving, orchard machinery usage, irrigation, maintenance, and then thinning, so it’s sequential through the season and means at the end of it all they have the right practical skills to get a job.

“The timing is ideal because when they finish the course in November there are plenty of jobs out there for them.”

Mahi Hauparoa says the course was challenging and there were times he wanted to give up.

"I got to a stage where I was going to throw it in, but I’m thankful I stayed determined and finished because it’s made me a lot happier and I’m actually getting out there and doing something with my life now."

Mr Bostock has been encouraging other growers to get in behind the sustainable fruit production programme and as a result more growers are jumping on board this winter and providing support.

“If we all get together and each do a little bit we can make a big difference. Unemployment creates social challenges in Hawke’s Bay, so if we are all paddling in the same direction it will help."

The first time graduates were treated to a special graduation ceremony at the Te Aranga Marae in Flaxmere on Wednesday where their life changing achievements were recognised.

Applications are open for this industry-focused course now. The next 20-week winter course starts in March.

ends

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