The drought formally declared in the northern regions of the South Island is now extended into Marlborough, Buller and Nelson.
The industry predicts it will need 25,000 more workers and the news of 100 new horticultural apprenticeships is “a start,” the minister says.
Horticulture offers opportunities to make money and add hugely to New Zealand’s growth, said O’Connor. But he added that the sector struggles with staffing, especially in management.
“But we haven’t been able to get that message through to them. And 25,000 people projected to be needed is a positive challenge for us in an industry of growth.”
O’Connor said this at the launch of the NZ Apprenticeship in Horticultural Production, held alongside the recent Horticulture NZ annual conference in Christchurch.
O’Connor says the apprenticeships are for people who can see a pathway into management positions.
“We have to address that issue of how to incentivise them,” he said. “If we can tell them ‘at the end of your apprenticeship you will get $10 an hour more, or you will end up with a good salary’ – then you will see Kiwis clamouring to get into this scheme.”
O’Connor also promised a shake-up of the whole tertiary education sector.
“I think TEC (Tertiary Education Commission) needs a shakeup. And I am committed to that,” he told the conference.
The new horticulture apprenticeships are being offered by Primary ITO with the support of employers and off-the-job training institutes.
“This three-way support system enables [apprentices] to achieve success and quite literally become the leaders of the future,” Primary ITO chief executive Linda Sissons said at the launch.
“By working with industry, the Primary ITO is ensuring the... apprentices will enter environments that will support their training, and the employers will get the support that they need.”
Sissons says the apprenticeships will be flexible and will suit a range of businesses, and will create a national standard and expectations of each graduate’s competence.
Details of the scheme are at www.letsgrow.co.nz