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Education to tackle primary industries skills shortage

Industry and education partner to tackle primary industries skills shortage

Damien Watson manages a 1,600 cow Landcorp dairy farm just north of Taupo and understands how important it is for employees to have the right skills and relevant qualifications. So much so, that when Kate Callaghan, who runs the agricultural programme at the local school, Tauhara College in Taupo, approached him last year to help train secondary students as part of their Land Based Studies (LBS) programme, he saw the relevance and quickly agreed.

Two students were sent his way for one day a week of on-site training to complement their LBS studies in the classroom. The Primary Industry Training Organisation (ITO) assists with the LBS curriculum.

Musa Maphosa was one of these students, and despite having arrived from overseas almost half way through the year, he responded so well to the practical training that he completed his NCEA Level 2 and went on to Taratahi Agricultural College in the Manawatu for a year, finishing as the top dairy student at the end of last year.

Musa is now back with Damien working full time as a farm assistant.

This Landcorp farm is not the only willing recipient of Kate’s enthusiastic agricultural students. Students have been placed far and wide, depending on their area of interest or study – many go onto farms, some into the forestry industry and one even to a Mitre 10 store to learn plant husbandry.

Through these work placements students have an opportunity to get hands-on training and learn real life, relevant skills which will help them more easily secure employment once they have finished school. They are assessed on their ‘on-site’ learning and can earn credits toward their NCEA helping them get their qualifications while doing something they enjoy.

“This programme has been great for our students, who have enjoyed the mix of practical and theory and the real connection to a vocational pathway that is very relevant to both them and New Zealand,” says Peter Gould, Principal of Tauhara College. “Our partnership with the Primary ITO has given it real credibility with the sector and us much support in delivering an appropriate course package.”

Students also gain more confidence and independence and can more easily transition to further study.

“My time on Damien’s farm and the guidance from school meant that when I got to Taratahi I knew so much more than the other students,” says Musa. “I worked more quickly. I already knew how to build break-fences, how to milk cows properly and knew more about stock feed technology and this put me a step ahead in class at Taratahi.”

Kate says that she aims to replicate what happens in the work force through the programme. “We are tough on students, no softer than in real life. This makes school real and it sets a high expectation in class.”

When students apply for the course, they have to fill in a form, get a reference just like a work application and early in Year 11 they undergo an interview. This also includes a drug test.

“We do the interview with parents because we like to know where that particular student’s strengths and weaknesses lie. What we aim to do with every student is not only get them through NCEA Level 2, and help them start gathering credits for NCEA Level 3. But for me, it is about finding ways for each student to get the right skills and qualifications for them,” says Kate. “We don’t focus too much on the credits, we focus on teaching students about the real world and helping them with the qualifications they need to get them there.”

“Once the students are in their placements,” Kate continues,” we keep contact with them but we don’t crowd them, the idea is that they are doing a proper job.”

And Damien treats them as such. “The students do what a normal farm worker would do, they milk cows, pull weeds and repair any fence. I tick off what they have done and supervise them.”

Damien has helped with a further two LBS placements, one of them his son Caleb.

“My son is very motivated to be a farmer but has struggled with traditional school subjects,” says Damien. “I have been so impressed with how the school has handled him. They understand what he needs and while he must get a certain level of literacy and numeracy, the school helped him by offering him subjects which made sense to him. Now he can go out into the world with the qualifications he needs.”

Caleb has just completed his Year 13 at Tauhara with a Level 2 Vocational Pathway in Primary Industries.
Caleb has started securing NCEA Level 3 credits through further work on the farm – he has completed his ‘motorbike on hilly terrain’ course, ‘isolating milk not fit for collection’ and ‘managing livestock’. Next year he wants to get a job as well as continue with his qualifications.

“I didn’t think I would leave school having done as well as I have done,” says Caleb. “If I can avoid writing I will, it’s not my strength. I love being outside, working with animals and I want to be good at that. School has made that happen for me.”

Arthur Graves, the Ministry of Education’s Group Manager for Youth Guarantee which has developed curriculum frameworks such as Vocational Pathways for trades based programmes like LBS says: “Programmes like this help students stay in school so that they secure the qualifications they need for the future. When students study subjects in areas which are relevant and interesting to them, then they are much more likely remain engaged with their learning. Having NCEA Level 2 also means students are well-prepared to undertake further training, study or work, as they have a solid foundation to build on.”

Good qualifications are essential to securing a good job and a higher income.

New Zealand needs to increase the number of young people, moving into further education, training or employment. In particular, we need to improve the rate of NCEA Level 2 achievement, the minimum qualification a young person needs to get to be ready for a better future. We also need to increase the number of 15-19 year olds in education to ensure they get the qualifications and skills that will benefit them.

We also need more young New Zealanders progressing to Level 4 or above, on the New Zealand qualifications framework, and moving into further education or skills training.

The Youth Guarantee provides 15-19 year olds more opportunities to study towards achieving NCEA Level 2, through programmes that make sense to them and have a clear pathway to further education, training and employment.

Youth Guarantee includes a range of initiatives including:
• A free place to learn
• A choice of relevant and meaningful learning opportunities
• A strong foundation NCEA L2 or equivalent with Vocational Pathways, to progress on their pathway to further education, training and work.


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