Agricultural apprenticeships – are they fruitful?

A Q&A with Mike Stephens, General Manager, Primary ITO

Struggling to recruit ambitious workers? Find out how two new apprenticeships, developed by Primary ITO and Federated Farmers, could help you tackle your skill shortage.

How does the Federated Farmers Apprenticeship Dairy work?
We match apprentices to relevant farms where they can ‘earn while they learn’, develop their skills on-job and grow their careers.  Employers enjoy motivated staff, and learn and grow throughout the apprenticeship too.

How does an employer get involved?
Farms wanting to take on an apprentice in the programme sign up to a farm charter to ensure they provide the best work environment, on-job training and career development for their apprentice. Since it launched two years ago, nearly 180 farms have signed the charter.  This means the farming community is willing to invest to bring people on and put them on a premium pathway to farm management and even ownership.

How many apprentices are signed up?
There are now nearly 100 apprentices in the programme throughout New Zealand.  This number is building and we’re working first on identifying people whose interests match the sector, like working outdoors and with animals, then helping match them with the best dairy farmers.

What are the main benefits to employers?
Employers are matched with employees who have a long-term commitment to the industry.  Employers recognise that by leading the training of an apprentice it adds value to their farm with motivated staff and will support them in a career with a recognised learning pathway to farm management.

How is the Horticulture Apprenticeship scheme going?
It has generated a lot of interest and there are apprentices across many types of horticulture.  About 50 people have started one of the horticulture production apprenticeships launched last year with our industry partners.

Why should an employer sign up?
Employers get improved access to skilled workers committed to their industry.  With a shortage of both skills and people, attracting the smart, innovative people the sector needs is of critical importance.  Primary ITO is working alongside industry to recruit motivated and career-oriented people to the sector and this helps with retention, productivity, succession planning and more.

Why is it so important to have initiatives like these?
All of the employers we work with give us the clear message that they need skilled workers and that they will invest in training them.  Across all our industries, we know that the future will be driven by value and innovation – not volume – and these apprenticeships help grow the future industry leaders to make this happen.