Learning opportunities set successful career path

22 May 2023

Waikato Dairy Manager of the Year Runner Up Sicelo Nene is very thankful for being able to learn about the New Zealand dairy industry and gain qualifications while he works his way up in the industry.

Sicelo is farm manager at a Waikato dairy farm, his third role on a dairy farm since moving to New Zealand from South Africa in 2020. Sicelo had completed a three-year Diploma in Agriculture studying full time in South Africa, and worked on dairy farms both at home and in the United States before he took an opportunity to work on a dairy farm in Otago.

On taking up the Otago farm assistant role, Sicelo was interested in learning opportunities in New Zealand dairying and began learning with Primary ITO | Te Pūkenga. He is completing Level 4 of the New Zealand Apprenticeship in Agriculture Dairy Farming and has plans to undertake a Level 5 qualification.

In 2022 Sicelo moved to Waikato for a farm manager role at Stony Bush Farm Limited. A year later he became the Runner Up in the Waikato region Dairy Manager of the Year in the New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards, also receiving the Personal Planning & Financial Management Merit Award.

Sicelo says the opportunity to work while studying has helped him to progress his career and set goals for the future. “Learning with Primary ITO has given me an understanding of farming and of the opportunities that are available here to progress.”

“The tutors and training advisers have shared stories of other students’ successes with us,” he says. “I think if these guys can do it, I can do it.” The Primary ITO team also help learners focus on the steps required to reach their goals, he says.

Sicelo is among a team of seven staff that Ben Watson employs across three Stony Bush dairy farms. Incentivising staff to learn on the job through Primary ITO is a key plank in the company’s strategy to address workforce shortages, says Ben.

“It is one way for us to get quality and stable staff. It means they stay with us for five years, can progress fast in the industry, and get a qualification on top of that.” Staff also have the opportunity to buy their own calves as they look toward a career in sharemilking.


Learnings applied to daily on-farm tasks

Knowledge is the key to success for learners and Primary ITO | Te Pūkenga enables them to learn quickly, Ben says. “When they learn something off-farm and then transfer that knowledge into the farm, that is really big. It might be something that they don’t encounter until next spring, but it is knowledge they have learnt and can apply.”

Sicelo says he enjoys being able to bring his learnings to everyday on-farm tasks. “I’ve now got a deeper understanding of the ‘why’ behind everything we do.”

Primary ITO training advisers are in regular contact with learners to support their progress, set a training plan and meet with employers and learners at least four times a year.

Sicelo says he has had excellent support from Primary ITO Training Adviser Marianne Awburn. “She has been amazing and takes the extra time to contact me, support me and steer me forward.”

Ben echoes Sicelo’s comments and says Marianne ensures learners are motivated and completing their work. “She really does care about the learners and invests a lot of time in this. She is awesome and understands how young people work as well.”

Sicelo is thankful for the career pathway Primary ITO | Te Pūkenga has given him. His next steps are to progress to contract milking and own his own business in the future. He recently married Amy, whom he met while working in Otago, and had his New Zealand residency approved.

If you’re based in the Waikato region, contact your local Dairy Training Adviser Marianne Awburn on 027 248 5430 or email [email protected]

All other Training Advisers can be contacted on 0800 20 80 20 or email [email protected].

Click here to see the range of dairy programmes available.