Interest building for Federated Farmers dairy apprenticeship scheme
Interest is flooding in for the Federated Farmers dairy apprenticeship scheme launched days ago in Hamilton.
The programme was the brain-child of Federated Farmers and Primary ITO to provide a training pathway for youths wanting to enter the dairy industry.
At the Christchurch launch on Wednesday, Federated Farmers dairy group chairman Chris Lewis said the three-year programme had been designed to reflect the needs of farmers and employees. The first year would be a pilot of the scheme and would take place in the country's leading dairy regions, he said.
"The industry operates in a labour deficit which leads to long hours for employees and business owners and some reliance on migrant labour," Lewis said.
"We want to employ Kiwis, reduce the reliance on migrant labour and we want to provide a work environment and career path that attracts them to come and work on our farms."
Students would start the scheme in entry-level positions such as a dairy assistant with the aim of becoming a competent herd manager.
"After three years we want them to be a great herd manager," Lewis said. "The talented may go straight into farm management and sharemilking.
"Dairy is a significant contributor to the New Zealand GDP and has been growing jobs at a fast rate over the last 10 years. Over 30,000 employees work on our farms.
"This has taken place at a time of decreasing unemployment making it hard to attract the best and brightest to dairy farming. We need people both in terms of capacity and capability.
"We need people with motivation and skill to add value, with a skill set that drives the industry forward," Lewis said.
On the employer side, Federated Farmers would identify dairy farmers equipped to offer a quality work environment and support for the on-job training and development of apprentices.
The teacher and trainer would be the farmer-employer. Employers would be backed by the development of a farm charter which reinforced the goals of a sustainable dairy workplace action plan. The charter would also provide oversight for the programme, Lewis said.
Primary ITO general manager sustainability and operational support Anne Haira said dairy farmers were finding it difficult to recruit staff.
"There is an enormous battle for people," she said.
"The biggest observation I have is there is no single organisation that can address this because the challenges are so wide-ranging.
"There are issues about how we attract people into the industry; there are a lot of misconceptions and stereotypes we have to tackle, behavioral challenges, drug and alcohol problems."
Concerning retention, industry culture played a huge part, she said. A collaboration was the key, which enabled each organisation to "play to their strengths."
The task of Primary ITO was to recruit 200 potential dairy apprentices in the next year, she said. It would also arrange the formal training towards the NZQA-recognised qualifications and the farm visits to check with the students.
It was hoped the scheme could be expanded to include the sheep and beef sector, said Federated Farmers national president Katie Milne.