Dairy apprenticeship supports career change from corporate world

21 March 2023

In a couple of short years Lauren Randall has changed careers to dairy farming, become financially stable and has goals to own her own dairy herd.

After 10 years of city life working in the Auckland and Waikato events industries, Lauren was needing a change but she didn’t realise there was a new career around the corner.

Lauren had gained her first experiences of rural life when she met her partner, a Waikato dairy farm manager, spending time on the farm at weekends. “I ended up having more and more time there and helping out.”

With changes coming up on the farm, owners Pete Morgan and Ann Bouma offered Lauren a dairy assistant role in 2021. “I laughed initially and said no but several weeks later I decided to explore the idea and then to take the opportunity.”

Lauren was keen to understand more about her new career, so decided to do a Dairy Farming Apprenticeship programme with Primary ITO Te Pūkenga.

“I like to know the background to what I am doing and the detail behind it. In the beginning I was doing things on the farm but didn’t know what the purpose behind it was.”

She says she was pleased to have the opportunity to learn through a structured programme alongside her new role. The apprenticeship programme has developed her understanding of why tasks are done a certain way, farm processes and decision-making, she says.

Study sparks interest in genetics

The Level 3 mating paper in particular sparked an interest in herd breeding for Lauren. “I enjoy learning how genetics influences the herd and how you can use that information to make different choices to achieve various outcomes. I would struggle to understand that work without the study.”

She is now combining her new knowledge with her data management and reporting skills from her previous career to provide useful information to her managers for decision-making.

Next season Lauren will be responsible for calf rearing and reproductive management of the 520-cow herd, and is looking to raise her own calves in future. The longer-term plan is for Lauren and her partner to go contract milking.

Employer Pete Morgan says he supports his team having ongoing training to advance their learning, and progress in their roles and future careers. “It also brings fresh ideas to the business. Lauren has completely embraced the learning and is already adding value with her ideas.”

He says Primary ITO Te Pūkenga programmes offer farmers and those new to the industry the opportunity to gain more skills in a supportive way and fit well with the farming calendar.

“Farming takes a huge number of skills and knowledge and it is difficult to learn it all on the job. These programmes give learners the opportunity to learn what they need to know and advance to the next step.”   

After one year in the job Lauren was promoted to Assistant Manager and in 2023 had success in the New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards regional competition.

Supportive learning programme

Lauren completed Level 3 part of the New Zealand Apprenticeship in Agriculture Dairy Farming in 2022 and started level 4 in 2023. She found Primary ITO’s Mahi Tahi online learning management system good to work with because tutor feedback was quicker than the previous paper-based system.

Lauren says she has had amazing support from her Training Adviser, Marin Walmsley, and her class tutor delivers the theory of the Primary ITO Te Pūkenga apprenticeship programme, and she also found attending classes helpful.