Specialist hort degree horticulture degree on the cards as industry cries out for more specialists
Massey University horticulture graduates each get five to 10 job offers and a specialist horticultural degree is being drawn up to cater for the demand.
At the moment, horticulture is part of other degrees, but Massey University senior horticultural production lecturer, Dr Huub Kerckhoffs said a horticulture degree would be part of Massey's repertoire by 2019.
It was probably 12 years since Massey had a specialist horticulture degree, he said.
"The demand is there. Horticulture has a vital role to play in food production in the future and the industry is desperate for horticulture graduates."
He said the degree would focus on horticultural engineering and commerce as well as the latest computer engineering which was part of today's horticulture.
"The growth area is digital horticulture, such as in irrigation, greenhouse technology and robotic picking, or kiwifruit and blueberries."
Kerckhoffs said he was working with a Hawke's Bay blueberry grower who employed about 1100 people to pick and pack.
Kiwifruit had passed wine in export dollars, said Kerckhoffs.
He said Massey University students were at the pipfruit conference, and some had attended the Potatoes New Zealand conference.
"The industry wants to mix with students and make connections with them to attract them to their industry," Kerckhoffs said.
He said graduates were graduating from university and walking into well paying jobs.
"They can be fresh out of a degree and climb the corporate ladder. They can be in a good position by the time they are 30. People are earning, $80,000 and beyond."
That will be music to many graduates' ears who often come out of university with large loans.
"We are proposing, and it will depend on the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) which has to approve all of our university courses, to have a bachelor of horticulture in 2019."
Kerckhoffs said at the moment there was a bachelor of agri-science which had been in place since 2009.
"There are currently three majors: agriculture, horticulture and equine. So a horticulture student will graduate as BAgriSci (Hort)."
He said the idea of a horticulture degree was gaining a lot of traction among industry people.
"The industry is looking at internships and sponsored degrees. It may be that a student studies for four days and spends a day working out in the industry," he said.
"At the moment there are about 15 to 20 graduates with horticulture qualification coming out of the degree programme and they are snapped up. We need 120," Kerckhoffs said
"And the industry has told us it is willing to invest. They could get the prestige of that and so would the students who would be paid to study."
But he was more disparaging of some high school career advisors saying many did not realise what was needed in horticulture now.
"Many don't know what is available in the industry. We keep telling people, a horticulture degree is like a passport to the world."
Kerckhoffs said the company that owns T &G (formerly Turners and Growers) was a German company bigger than Fonterra.
He said an undergraduate course was available in China, and he was excited that post graduate horticulture students could be at Massey University in three year's time.