Swap aims to ease farm labour void

JODY O'CALLAGHAN
Last updated 05:00 09/06/2014
lee sewell
OPEN LEARNING: Lee Sewell, 15, who is learning about equines with the National Trades Academy in Christchurch.

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A growing number of teens are swapping classrooms for paddocks as moves are made to remedy a shortage of farm workers in Canterbury.

The Christchurch-based National Trades Academy (NTA) is being funded by the Ministry of Education to train 70 secondary school pupils in agriculture, horticulture, equine and animal care.

The pupils - often from urban areas and with little experience of rural life - spend three days a week at school and the other two at the academy's 70-hectare McLean's Island property.

About 35 are learning about milking, animal handling, feed management and farm maintenance while working towards a National Certificate in Agriculture and NCEA Level 2.

The other 35 pupils are being taught horticulture, equine and animal care.

Burnside High School year 13 pupil Jamie Poole is into his second year studying horticulture and was undecided between forestry and horticulture as a "springboard" to contribute to landscaping in the rebuild.

"I enjoy redeveloping the land. The tutors help us make our own decisions."

Lee Sewell, 15, hoped the equine course would give her the opportunity to work as a horse physiotherapist.

"I'm thrilled to work with animals. The horse I'm working with put her trust in me. It gave me a buzz and made my mind up."

NTA managing director Craig Musson said there was an abundance of jobs on dairy farms, but few takers.

"Canterbury farmers are struggling for staff with about 40 per cent of their workers coming from overseas. At the same time, students leave school and often wonder what work is available for them. This will hopefully match the two needs."

Some schools were worried about losing ministry funding if students were spending less time at school, but that was not the case, he said.

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- The Press

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