A group of emerging horticultural leaders who have recently returned from an executive study tour in Europe say it’s been eye opening, amazing and life changing in terms of their careers.
“It is beyond odd to me why young people are not seeking a career in horticulture," says Professor Peter Kemp, Head of the School of Agriculture and Environment at Massey University.
He says Massey is doing everything it can to attract students – including having a presence at major field days and making school visits and staging open days.
But Kemp says the numbers of students applying for jobs in the sector is still below the demand from industry, which is desperately looking for qualified staff.
“There has been the major growth in the horticulture industry in NZ over the last five to ten years – especially with apples, kiwifruit, grapes and avocados,” Kemp told Hort News.
“These are all booming industries with jobs for people that can not only manage the orchards, but for a range of professionals giving advice on running irrigation systems, working in the packing, sorting and marketing side. Then there is all that international stuff around marketing and logistics.” he
Kemp says there is a job for everyone across the board in horticulture. He adds it’s not only the jobs, but the industry is also a very pleasant one to work in.
“It’s a real struggle to see why people aren’t flocking to a place where there are lots of jobs and shortage of people.”
Kemp says Massey has tried to analyse why there is a lack of response to the opportunities.
He believes it comes down to a lack of understanding by school children – and often teachers – about the type of careers available in horticulture. He says most just don’t seem to understand it.
“They just see the apples in the supermarket, but they don’t understand that while it starts with just picking that apples, beyond that it is a very sophisticated business with endless career opportunities,” he says.