Farming moves up in popularity

TV ads attract students back to the land

SONIA BEAL
Last updated 16:00 15/06/2012
Damon Boniface
DEREK FLYNN

On the job: Former Marlborough Boys' College student Damon Boniface

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Farming has rocketed up the popularity scale as a potential career path for students at Marlborough Boys' College, says careers and transition manager Peter Kemp.

Eleven year 12 and year 13 students have spent one day a week doing work experience at Marlborough farms through the Gateway programme this year, the most since the programme was introduced at the school in 2008.

The Gateway programme, funded by the Tertiary Education Commission, offers senior secondary school students the opportunity to get in work experience across a range of industries and businesses for further education and training or employment, while continuing to study at school.

Damon Boniface was one of the two students who had secured fulltime jobs as a result, Mr Kemp said. Normally only one or two students took up farm work each year.

Mr Kemp attributed the jump in numbers and students' growing interest in farming to a rise in television advertisements outlining the employment opportunities and benefits of working in agriculture.

The prospect of working outdoors had enticed Damon into the job. He is working for Sue and Phillip Woolley on their dairy farm at Tuamarina.

Learning a range of practical skills such as fencing, milking cows, and other general maintenance work around the farm was fun, he said.

Damon was also studying towards a National Certificate in Agriculture, among other work qualification requirements.

Farm co-owner Sue Woolley was full of praise for the Gateway programme.

"What it does for these guys is brilliant. Not everyone is going to be a scientist, or a doctor, or lawyer.

"The education is there for them; they just have to make a bit of an effort.

"What they need to know is: if they want to be in the dairy industry, they need to get the bits of paper in their folder. Thirty years ago, you could probably get away with just being practical, but that's not the case any more."

Farm manager Jason Cole said dairy farming had undergone big changes since he began working in the industry about 20 years ago.

A good work ethic was often all that was required by an employer, rather than qualifications, which contrasted to present attitudes.

"You just needed to get up and out of bed, really."

Another shift in the industry was the short time it took to move up the career ladder. Mr Cole said he had to spend five years as a farmhand, before being promoted to herd manager, then another two years to get into management.

"If Damon sticks at it, in four years' time he could end up managing a 1000-cow farm.

"It's good to get young people into farming because there's a real shortage of young people coming through."

Students and parents will have the opportunity to learn more about working in the field from the agriculture industry training organisation AgITO during a careers evening hosted by Marlborough Boys' College on Monday at 7pm at the Marlborough Lines Stadium in Blenheim.

AgITO is among 37 tertiary providers and industry training organisations that will be there.

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- The Marlborough Express

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