Farming could be the answer for job-hunters

COLLETTE DEVLIN
Last updated 06:50 05/03/2014

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Venture Southland is tackling youth unemployment and its research suggests the answer lies in agricultural opportunities.

Its enterprise and strategic projects group manager Steve Canny said a high number of young Southlanders were unemployed but a large number of agriculture jobs were available.

A Venture survey of Southland schoolchildren in December showed agriculture was one of the most popular career choices, yet few were entering the sector.

The organisation wanted to change that, he said. "It is critical any roadblocks preventing young people from accessing information or work experience in agriculture and primary industry are removed."

A steering group, made up of Federated Farmers, Work and Income, Southland District Council and Venture Southland representatives was set up early last year to look into the problem.

A collection of research projects started in June last year and Venture Southland was now cor analysing the findings.

Enterprise projects co-ordinator Rhiannon Suter said the findings showed there were many different pathways for young people to begin careers in agriculture, and this complicated the process for them. There had been concern about negative perceptions associated with agriculture, but this was disproved, and it was found young people saw agriculture in a positive light.

Work experience and familiarity with the industry, particularly in urban areas, was more of a concern, with more emphasis needed on that aspect, Miss Suter said.

Young people also needed more practical opportunities and advice before their career choices and agriculture issues should be taught to non-farming students.

Tertiary institutions should have more primary industry-related courses and training to try to keep young people in the region, she said. Employers should also better promote opportunities and engage better with schools.

A plan to move forward included creating a strategy and finding funding to implement it, she said.

Rural Contractors New Zealand zone secretary Linda Stalker had consulted Venture on the plan and agreed more education was needed to attract young people.

Rural Contractors board members Brian Hughes and David Kean said there were more jobs in the region than experienced machinery operators to fill them. Some contractors brought in overseas workers to do the seasonal work instead.

The organisation had a great response to its open day last year and it would be repeated this year in the hope more young people would attend.

collette.devlin@stl.co.nz

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- The Southland Times

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