Apprentice graduates to training others

18 July 2022

Matt Lane always wanted a career in farming and continuing his apprenticeship with the Primary ITO helped land him his first management role where he’s now supporting another apprentice to gain qualifications for his career.

Matt says studying for the apprenticeship enabled him to get his first stock manager role and has opened the opportunity for him to keep furthering his career.

Matt’s study journey started at South Otago’s Telford Rural Polytechnic where he studied the New Zealand Certificate in Agriculture Level 2 and 3. From there he gained a place at nearby Jeff Farm, a sheep and beef breeding and finishing property owned by the Salvation Army Trust, and studied Level 4.

Jeff Farm offers agriculture-related course scholarships to young people and each year up to four students train in practical farming skills on the property.

Matt completed the Primary ITO Level 4 qualification through this cadetship, gaining practical experience mustering, shearing, general stock work, tractor work, fencing, winter grazing rotations and training dogs.

He then spread his wings for several years gaining experience around Otago and Canterbury on properties ranging from cropping, fattening and dairy bull operations, an Angus beef stud, and a sheep and beef farm before returning to Jeff Farm where he stayed for over four years.

There he worked his way up to head shepherd and with the support of wife Jasmine, management and his tutors encouraging him to complete more papers, he completed Level 4.


First management role

Now Matt is stock manager at Central Southland sheep and beef operation Benmore Downs and looking to continue his study in future.

He says studying has given him goals and direction in his career and he recommends it to others. “The study validated what I already know and enabled me to go for bigger jobs so that I can move up. I really wanted to get into management and doing Level 4 helped me do that.”

And moving up means the responsibility of managing his first staff member, Max McCallum, who is studying towards level 4.

Max says he’s enjoying the benefits of his manager having recently completed the same study. Max started Level 1 and 2 through the Primary ITO when he was at high school, with the programme giving him work experience one day a week on farm.

The biggest thing he got out of the study was learning to ask questions so that he could learn why things were done a certain way, he says.

“You are pretty much like a 5-year-old asking ‘why?’ every two seconds. This also helps our managers because when we ask questions all the time and they learn from that.”

Max says when he passes Level 4 his next steps are to be a head or senior shepherd, and then a stock manager and study Level 5. “That is my future plan. This has helped give me a path and a plan to strive for.”


Technology helps apprentices

John and Liz Chittock have been managing Jeff Farm and training farm cadets for over 20 years, supporting young people through industry training apprenticeships. Cadets complete their practical section of the apprenticeship on the farm.

John says Primary ITO apprenticeships are a wonderful opportunity for those beginning a farming career. “The study gives them skills and aspiration to go further. I’d recommend to any farmer employer to encourage their staff to do the study.”

He says a positive development in recent years is that students can use their phones to record their work as part of their learning. “The young ones are on their phone all the time. I say their phone is their brain.”

“A lot of them don’t enjoy the class work because they might have had a bad experience at school but using technology to record what we are doing helps them to understand their work and complete it.”

He gives an example where the cadets can see what fertiliser rates are applied to different areas. “It enables them to learn why we might have different approaches for different areas. They engage in the job and feel like they are understanding and accomplishing it better.”

“They thrive on that sort of thing and feel more connected to the business.”


Apprenticeship funding

Apprentices and employers who pay training fees for their staff may be eligible for government funding to cover some of the fees through Free Trades Training which is available until 31 December 2022. Employers taking on apprentices can apply for funding through the Government’s Apprenticeship Boost programme which has recently been extended by the Government until the end of 2023.

Contact us today to get in touch with your local Training Adviser and find out more about becoming an apprentice, or enrolling an apprentice.

Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ) are committed to growing sheep and beef farmers skillsets and are proud to financially contribute to every sheep and beef enrolment. We encourage you to access resources at and sign up for information/events at our website