The Northland farmer to farmer learning programme Extension 350 is attracting nationwide attention.
The Rabobank Agri Leadership Programme was attended by year 12 and 13 students from 16 high schools in Northland, Auckland and Waikato.
Students were chosen according to academic performance, leadership attributes and career aspirations.
They visited local farms and agribusinesses such as Fonterra, DairyNZ, Silver Fern Farms, Zeelong Tea and Vetora (veterinary services co-operative) and heard from agribusiness leaders such as Julia Jones from KPMG.
Participant Grace Moscrip, a year 13 student from Whangarei Girls High School, says she came away with new appreciation of the range of careers available.
“I come from a dairy farm in Hukerenui, and I thought I knew lots about the sector, but I’ve learnt a lot in the last few days from the visits and the different people who spoke to us.
“At DairyNZ there was a panel discussion with young people who had been on DairyNZ’s scholarship programme and have recently started jobs there. We questioned the panel and they helped open my eyes to how many options there are once you get out of uni.”
Moscrip says the “awesome experience” had cemented her desire to study agribusiness after high school.
“I’ve always wanted to go to university and do something in agri science. I don’t have any specific agribusiness role in mind at this stage but several were mentioned that sounded cool.”
The programme’s focus on self-leadership and resilience had resonated with her, Grace said, especially the speakers on leadership and overcoming adversity.
“I’m the head girl at school this year and also play a lot of sport and lots of valuable information in these presentations will help me at school and with my sports activities.”
Another participant, Will Newton, a year 13 student from Mt Albert Grammar, said he’d enjoyed the week, in particular the visits to Silver Fern Farms and the sheepmilking operation Spring Sheep NZ.
“The meat works were a highlight; it was incredible to see what goes on there. Spring Sheep was awesome as sheep milking is something new to me.”
He says listening to the speakers across the week had highlighted how many roles were available in the agricultural sector and how careers were evolving.
“I think one of the key points for me was that new types of jobs are being created in the agricultural sector all the time and I don’t need to get too fixated on any one particular role as there may be all sorts of new jobs available by the time I’ve finished my studies and am looking to enter the workforce,” he said.
Now in its fourth year, the Agri-Leadership Programme was developed in 2015 by Rabobank’s Waikato Client Council – a group of Waikato-based Rabobank clients who meet regularly to discuss agricultural industry issues and implement ideas to contribute to the sustainability of rural communities.
Council chairperson Pamela Storey says the council developed the initiative as it felt more needed to be done to ensure school leavers were aware of the range of careers available in the sector.
The programme is one of several Rabobank runs to help encourage young people into farming.