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Primary ITO: Knowledge to grow

News & Features

Let's open the gate to our young people

22 August 2018

Primary ITO is challenging schools, school leavers and farmers to open the farm, garden, or orchard gate as this year’s “Got a Trade? Got it Made!” week highlights the huge potential in industry training for a primary sector career.

We're taking part in this year’s “Got A Trade? Got It Made!” week to showcase the advantages of tertiary on-the-job education and to connect young New Zealanders to real employers in the primary industries.

“We’ve got 30 different sector groups from dairy to horticulture, from processing to fishing, and from agribusiness management to bee-keeping, and one thing they’re all saying is ‘we need talented people and we’ll train them’,” says Chief Executive Linda Sissons.

“Demand for skilled people has never been higher. Our sector needs an extra 50,000 qualified workers by 2025. Right now, only 4 percent of school leavers go directly into on-the-job training, with university remaining the default choice for many people. But that is not always the best option.

“We all need to do more to open the way for talented school leavers to join the primary sector. We’re keen to help schools do this. Primary ITO is working with schools to introduce senior students to local farmers and good employers to give them a taste of the sector. Our apprentices earn while they learn real and relevant skills in growing and innovative industries. Our farms, orchards and gardens become their campuses,” says Dr Sissons.

“The primary sector is the backbone of New Zealand’s economy and its future will be driven by innovation – not just scale.

“We are looking for practical students to work with the industry to act as guardians of our remarkable biodiversity, students with STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering or Mathematics) skills and those with soft skills, such as marketing and languages, which will help New Zealand’s high-end quality produce reach new international markets.”

This year’s Primary ITO “Got A Trade!” Ambassador Sami Baker is an arborist. She remembers driving past a crew of arborists in Christchurch years ago who were dangling from trees holding chainsaws and thinking ‘that would be a dream job’.

Fast forward several years, and the 26 year-old is now the one dangling from great heights – notably above an earthquake-ravaged State Highway 1 near Kaikoura.

“We got called in to abseil down the cliff faces and remove all the trees that were in danger of coming down,” Sami Baker says. “It was a great learning curve but a bit scary because the earthquake had pretty much destroyed the road. You really had to trust your training and the crew members around you.”

Sami is now half-way through her three-year apprenticeship with Christchurch and Wellington-based arborist company Treetech. She is learning practical skills on the job while also studying towards her Level 4 Certificate in Arboriculture.