On-farm learning brings new people into dairy industry

3 May 2023

Having Primary ITO | Te Pūkenga supporting their on-farm team to learn on the job enables Waikato dairy farmers Mel and Josh Thomson to bring people with no experience into the dairy industry, says Mel.

While many employers require staff to have at least two years of experience on farm before employment, Mel says employees can learn on the job quickly if they enrol to learn through Primary ITO while they are working.

Mel and Josh farm at Tokoroa and have two learners currently undertaking the New Zealand Certificate in Agriculture Dairy Farming Level 3 programme with Primary ITO.

Second in charge on the farm, Rangi Marunui, and dairy assistant, Tawera Sydney, are also planning to do the Level 4 programme.

Mel says while dairy farming production and processes require particular knowledge and skills, the learning programmes quickly upskill staff who have no background in the work.

“To train new staff you need to set aside time and have patience. Because we have got the support of Primary ITO to help us teach them, we can confidently employ people new to the industry and give them an opportunity to grow and progress.”

Primary ITO Training Adviser Vanessa Wanhill has worked in a range of dairy farming positions, including manager and sharemilker, and supports Rangi and Tawera.

“I am passionate about the industry and cows, and I love seeing learners succeed and achieve their goals. Helping others to achieve what I achieved is like giving back for me,” says Vanessa.

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

Learners attend classes once every month to six weeks and attend study days and nights. A learning support team and mentors are available to learners who require additional support.

Mel says Vanessa supports the learners by goal setting and giving them the confidence to know they can achieve what is required. “Our staff find the support really good. Vanessa is very encouraging and interested in their progress.”

Mel says the programme is built around the farm calendar with calving and mating learning modules well placed just before these occur on farm. “It gives them a heads up on what we are going in to. They learn about it and then put it in to practice.”

For Mel and Josh encouraging their team to undertake training towards a qualification is part of giving others the opportunity in the industry. “We want them to know what’s behind the tasks that they are doing and enjoy farming. If they are keen we will help them progress.”

Both learners came from different careers and are motivated to succeed and progress in the dairy industry, she says. Rangi was in church ministry and security roles, and Tawera worked for KiwiRail.

“We gave them both the opportunity and they are proving themselves and will go on and do well in the industry. Often people just need to be given that opportunity and I would definitely recommend this to other farmers.”

Click here to see the range of dairy programmes available, or use the form below to get in touch.