With the new school year looming, and a new batch of young people considering their future career options, Rural Contractors New Zealand (RCNZ) says the agricultural sector offers many exciting job opportunities.
"Agriculture ranks as New Zealand's most productive, innovative sector and offers a wide variety of exciting career opportunities for young people," says RCNZ chief executive Roger Parton.
"Yet, despite relatively high unemployment nationally, many rural contractors still find it difficult to recruit skilled and motivated staff, let alone attract young school leavers into the industry to start a career."
Mr Parton's comments follow a recent news item that suggests the industry is heading for a crisis if young New Zealanders continue to ignore careers in agriculture.
He says it's a problem that rural contractors - along with others in the industry - are working to solve, with new initiatives designed to help foster an interest in a career in the sector.
"Rural contractors - like many in the agricultural sector - often have to bring in overseas workers to fill this gap," he explains. "But we are keen to employ local, young people to give them a chance and training and show them there is a viable and exciting career in our industry." Mr Parton says RCNZ provides a career path for young people entering our industry and there are qualifications up to Diploma level, which are available to those working in our sector with remuneration figures above the average in many cases. However, he believes it's important that schools also show the way.
"One such school is Ashburton College where its new Primary Industries course teaches students about topics including soil, crops and animal growth," he says.
"This demonstrates to students some of the opportunities that are available in agriculture and gets them thinking about potential careers in the sector."
Mr Parton believes there is an appetite from young people to work in the sector and they are looking for career opportunities.
"This was clearly demonstrated to us last year, when Southland RCNZ members held an induction, information and field day, near Invercargill.
"This attracted a huge amount of interest and we were blown away when instead of an expected 30 people turning up, more than 100 attended."
He says due to the success of this event, RCNZ is now looking at the possibility of establishing a three-day or four-day training courses next winter to enable more local people to develop the necessary skills to work in the contracting industry and meet contractors' staffing needs.
CENTRAL SOUTH ISLAND FARMER
- © Fairfax NZ News