Apprentices bring innovation to Lochiel Station

3 March 2022

Having staff train through the Primary ITO Apprenticeship Programme is bringing innovation and adding value to the performance of large sheep and beef operation, Lochiel Station, in Canterbury.

Hamish and Mary McRae farm Lochiel Station at Hanmer Springs in the Waiau Valley and their finishing operation Avonvale a short drive away, running 8,000 ewes and 800 cows.

All of their four staff across the two properties have gained new skills on the Primary ITO Apprenticeship Programme in recent years.

“Our two stock managers have completed level 4 and currently our two apprentices have just started the Level 4 course,” says Hamish.

Hamish says the team are bringing new skills and innovation to the farm which are being put into practice.

The team have introduced technical methods to measure pasture growth and crops, replacing the previous practice where pasture was assessed by the eye to predict feed supply and budgets.

“Now we know how much feed we currently have and what we have got ahead of us.”

“It’s a great benefit, especially on the finishing farm because they can go around and measure the pasture and see how many lambs we are capable of finishing.”

Learning brings motivation

The apprentices’ learnings also lift their own confidence and motivation, bringing benefits for the whole team, says Hamish.

The apprentices leave the farm for a couple of days at a time to learn in the classroom. “As well as bringing back new ideas, they learn why we do things in a certain way.”

“They are definitely more motivated to pick up new skills and ideas after they have been at their training. And they come back to the farm keen to put their new learnings in to practice.”

Hamish says a benefit of the programme is that his apprentices are regularly assessed on what they have learnt, giving them a deeper understanding of the mahi.

Apprenticeship programme recommended

Hamish recommends other farm employers start their staff on the programme and farm workers should look into starting an apprenticeship.

“It is very valuable to us as a business and as an employer to be able to offer this scheme, and beneficial to us to have people learning as they are working. It also enables us to attract good staff.”

“The apprentices can earn while they learn, and it is a great way for them to move up the ladder in the farming industries.”

“It is a win-win for both parties if everybody is learning.”

Hamish says Primary ITO provides good support through its training advisers who attend the off-farm training sessions, visit and work with the team on farm and support the apprentices when needed.

Get in touch with us to see how we can support your business goals through the development of your people.

Fees are covered* by the Government’s free trades training up until 31 December 2022, and if you’re an employer, you may be able to take advantage of the Government’s “Apprenticeship Boost”.

More information is available about funding here.

* If the programme duration extends beyond December 2022, or your staff are enrolled in multiple programmes at once, fees will apply.