OPINION: Clinical psychologist Nigel Latta painted a gloomy picture in his recent television programme "The Haves and Have Nots" that highlighted the thousands of unemployed university graduates in New Zealand.
It provided a stark contrast to the agriculture sector crying out for qualified workers to meet the growing demand over the next 10 years.
I suggest too many urban people are looking in the wrong place for a career with a good salary and the opportunity for wealth creation. If people are looking for a lifestyle that incorporates running your own business and being able to afford hobbies ranging from horses to helicopters, they should target a career in agriculture, food and agribusiness. In other words, join the agrifood industry that drives New Zealand's economy.
Agrifood doesn't just underpin our economy with food exports, it supports jobs in almost everything – banking, software development, mechatronics, food technology, veterinary science, environmental management, manufacturing and marketing to list a few. Whether you want to be a farmer, bank manager or entrepreneur, you will find success in the agrifood industry.
Let's look at some facts and figures. The Government's latest "People Powered" primary industries future capability report projects there will be 50,000 new jobs in agriculture by 2025. Many of these will be service workers with qualifications such as researchers, rural business consultants, food safety specialists, irrigation specialists and sales professionals. The report also shows the need for 15,000 qualified workers in horticulture by 2025. Horticulture is a multi-billion dollar industry yet there is a chronic shortage of managers and consultants with horticulture degrees.
New Zealand is well placed to provide the eduction to support the need for more qualified workers in primary industries. We have Massey University, ranked 19th in the latest QS rankings, which offers programmes across the whole spectrum of agrifood and agribusiness, as well as Lincoln University, which focuses on production agriculture and Waikato University that offers agribusiness.
There are many entry points into jobs in agrifood and there is training and education at all levels. Secondary Schools such as St Paul's Collegiate in Hamilton are setting up an elite academy for students heading into agribusiness. Taratahi College near Masterton will teach you how to manage and work on a farm, while the Primary Industry Training Organisation supports on-the-job training across the country.
I do not have the solution to all the economic ills that worry Nigel Latta but if you are a person who wants to get ahead in life then I believe you should consider a job in the agrifood industry. Who knows, you might end up with a multi-million dollar business.
* Peter Kemp is head of Massey University's Institute of Agriculture and Environment.