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Building a talent pipeline with New Zealand Young Farmers

Building a talent pipeline with New Zealand Young Farmers

Being part of a TeenAg club at high school kept Northland teenager Sam Moscrip in school longer than he had intended, and it has opened him up to many new possibilities in the primary industries.

The TeenAg club format has been developed by New Zealand Young Farmers as a way for younger people to get started with the movement.

Young Farmers are taking a “pipeline” approach, explains NZYF chief executive Terry Copeland, developing a format to suit each age group around the Young Farmers set-up. New Zealand Young Farmers has existed for more than 80 years and is for people aged 16 to 31.

This work was initially part of the 7-year Transforming the Dairy Value Chain Primary Growth Partnership (PGP) programme, which is co-funded by the Ministry for Primary Industries, and is now also being funded by another PGP programme, the Red Meat Profit Partnership.

The overall aim is to help more young people understand the potential opportunities in the primary industries. Along with the TeenAg clubs for 13 to 18-year-olds, Young Farmers have set up AgriKids clubs for 8 to 13-year-olds.

It has certainly worked for Sam. The Agriculture teacher at Kamo High School, Colleen Rushton, suggested that he and some Year 12 mates take part in a TeenAg regional final – a hands-on competition for teenagers interested in agriculture. They got into the top three and took part in the grand final event in Dunedin, where they placed in the top seven.

Through this they found out about the TeenAg clubs and set one up at their school. It took off: “We got a pretty strong membership base pretty quickly: it grew to about 35 members within a month.”

They made sure the club was “user friendly” for young people. “We streamlined meetings to keep them short and sweet, and we focused on getting out seeing farms and getting in guest speakers.”

And it wasn’t just attracting farm boys like him. “At one stage we had a club with 40 financial members and only two of us off farms. That was the lightbulb moment, when we realised we must be doing something good.”

And others noticed too. The local paper began calling regularly to find out about their next events, and they developed a relationship with the local Whangarei A & P Society, which led to combined activities.

It has had some profound flow-on effects for Sam himself. “I was planning to leave at the end of 2012, because I was sick of school really and I was going to work at home on the farm. The TeenAg club kept me at school for year 13, and it has opened heaps of opportunities. I still want to go farming, but now I’m doing an AgComm degree at Lincoln University – so having that degree and also a network of contacts will make a big difference to the way I do things.”

The TeenAg involvement on his CV has helped him land a few scholarships to fund his way through uni, too.

He has continued his involvement, joining the Young Farmers club at Lincoln and helping to make it appealing for fellow students. He’s now chairman and the club has grown from 45 members to more than 70.

There’s a next step being created for people who “age out” of Young Farmers: the Rural Business Network. “This is for people who are in their own farming business or are in a management position on a farm, or rural professionals, such as bankers, vets and salespeople,” says Terry. “It gives them a chance to network and also access to some continuing education. A lot of farmers feel they don’t have the time for learning activities, but here it’s not presented as learning.

“The blended membership means there’s a diversity of opinion and outlook, and there are stimulating discussions about key issues, for example freshwater management.”

Eight Rural Business Network hubs have been established around the country over the past few years, and membership is currently beyond the target, at 500. To qualify as a member, a person attends at least one event a year; the only fee is $10 per event.

As Sam discovered, young people don’t have to be from the country to take part – and this is something Young Farmers wants to develop more. “Any teen with an interest in science or technology, for example, could have an interesting time in a TeenAg club,” says Terry.

A recent study shows that if the primary industries are going to meet their growth targets over the next 10 years, they will need to attract new entrants from both urban and rural areas. New Zealand Young Farmers has increased its network of fulltime Field Officers who work with the clubs, from three to seven, including a new Field Officer based in Auckland city who’s working to get more of the urban kids involved.

The clubs are also providing young people with opportunities to develop leadership skills, Terry points out. “Some people naturally put themselves forward because they have good vision and can bring others with them on a journey. The primary industries tend to be not so good at harnessing that themselves, so that’s something we can add.”

Statistics:

Year to 31 March 2015:

AgriKids membership (8 to 13 age group) has increased from 1232 to 1730

TeenAg membership (13 to 18 age group) has increased from 501 to 1058

Number of schools hosting a TeenAg club has gone up from 45 to 71

ENDS


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