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Plenty of choice in primary industry

Abby Hull had three job offers waiting for her by the time she graduated university. “The primary industry is a strong space for careers with all the new technology, compliance and requirements on farm,” she said.

“The industry requires a lot more grads now, so there are plenty of jobs out there,” she commented.

The primary sector often goes unnoticed as a viable career path for many young people, even though it is one of the most lucrative industries in the country.

Federated Farmers reports that agriculture, together with the food and forestry sectors generate 70 percent of New Zealand's merchandise export earnings. So it’s no wonder that graduates in the primary sector earn an average salary of $55,000, well above the national average of $46,000.

After finishing her Bachelor of Applied Science (now known as AgriScience) at Massey University, Abby was offered two different jobs with banks and another with Dairy NZ as a graduate consulting officer. She chose Dairy NZ, and after six months she moved up to a more senior consulting role where she is today.

In efforts to educate secondary students of the range of career possibilities within the primary industry New Zealand Young Farmers, Beef+Lamb NZ and Dairy NZ have joined forces and for the last three years have been running Get Ahead Career Experience Days.

There are ten days held around the country annually and over 1000 students attend to hear from successful industry professionals and learn about different career pathways in the primary sector. They are also able to meet with representatives from universities and training centres to ask questions and find out about scholarships available. The days showcase both the on farm and business related career opportunities – from pasture to plate, there is a career for everyone.

Based in the Manawatu/Horowhenua area Abby says her job is very busy and it’s never quite the same.

Abby, 24, works with farmers to gain an understanding of what their goals are and creates opportunities for them in order to produce positive on farm change. “It’s never a boring day!” she said.

Abby says there is more to the primary industry than just gumboots and milking cows, there are different talents and skill sets that all have a place and contribute to the success of the industry.

“There is definitely a huge demand for people in the primary sector,” she said. Dairy NZ estimates the primary industry will need at least 1250 agriculture-related graduates every year for sustainable growth.

But it’s not just a numbers game. The industry will need skilled, qualified and capable workers to sustain its future and it starts with encouraging students into the primary sector and educating the future leaders.

KPMG reported that on average just over two-thirds of rural New Zealand students are completing their secondary education, compared to the 76% national average.

Abby was impressed with the Get Ahead programme: “It’s great to see how enthusiastic and keen all these young kids are to learn about agriculture and a great opportunity for the ones who perhaps haven’t seen the career pathways in the agriculture sector.”

The Get Ahead Career Experience Days begin in Gore, 3 March and continue around the country:

Oamaru: 5 March
Christchurch: 13 March
Rai Valley: 18 March
Wellington: 20 March
Palmerston North: 25 March
Hawera: 27 March
Gisborne: 1 April
Cambridge: 3 April
Whangarei: 9 April


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