Lack of farming work frustrates young engineer

Last updated 08:03 12/08/2014

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If a chronic shortage of skilled workers on New Zealand farms exists, why is it so hard for a skilled engineer with a solid work record to find work on a sheep, beef or cropping farm?

That's the question a 26-year-old engineer from Marlborough is asking.

"Everyone says there are lots of jobs and it's easy to find work. Well actually it's not," the woman, who asked not to be named, said.

"I'm a very hands-on person," she said.

"I've done engineering work for most of my working life. I had been with the same employer for 6 years before I left. I really enjoy the work but I just wanted to get away and do something special."

A city girl, born and bred, she said she loved working outdoors, had always had an interest in animals and had a history of voluntary work experience on farms through friends during her school holidays.

She gave herself a two-year window to retrain and was prepared to travel anywhere in New Zealand to get a start as a general shepherd on a sheep, beef or cropping farm.

She could have got a job dairying, but that was not where her interest lay.

Because of her personal situation, a full-time live-in farming study course at Telford or Lincoln was not possible, so she completed a distance learning course through Telford.

While it was "a bloody good course", she conceded it was possibly not the best way to get into farming. However, while plenty of training opportunities for students under 20 existed, the same openings for mature students like her were not available.

Through friends she arranged four months of voluntary work on a high country station in Marlborough in the hope it would lead to a full-time farm job.

Over the next 18 months to two years, she applied for about 80 jobs, both online and through advertisements she placed in newspapers.

"So why did I fail?" she asked

"Because I'm female? Because I didn't have a full team of dogs? Because I lived out of the area? Because I didn't have enough experience? I don't know, pick your reason, but those were the top excuses and I could not persuade someone to take me on," she wrote.

While reluctant to resort to the gender argument, she said it appeared to be a factor that some employers did not want to employ a woman because, generally, they were not as strong as men or because she didn't have enough experience.

"I appreciate farmers are running a business and just can't take on young people and train them up all the time," she said. "I just find it really frustrating that I've tried so damn hard to find a job and no-one's given me a chance.

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"There doesn't seem to be a lot of opportunities for someone who is older and wants to get into farming.

"What can I do? I just can't keep banging my head on a brick wall and going nowhere."

Life has moved on. Her partner landed a job in Southland and the couple have since moved south, bought their own home and she is now working as a general engineer five minutes away from where she lives.

"I've been there four months and I've already got a pay rise because the boss thinks I'm a great worker with a lot of skill," she said.

-NZ Farmer


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