Supporting careers in dairy farming

22 November 2021

With 41 dedicated dairy experts across the motu, Primary ITO’s people are dedicated to getting on every farm – wherever learners need them. 

Primary ITO Dairy Sector Adviser Karen Dawson says Primary ITO’s network of dairy training advisers can ensure dairy farmers learn the right skills at the right time.

“The real key is building a trusted relationship between the farms and our advisers. It’s important that they know the business well before steering people into the type of learning that works best for everyone.” 

She cites the example of Ngāi Tahu Farming, which has two farming businesses across three sites in Te Wai Pounamu, from the Whakatipu high country grazing operation, to beef grazing and finishing at Balmoral, and where most of the staff are employed in dairying at Te Whenua Hou, north of the Waimakariri River. 

“We really admire the value Ngāi Tahu places in training and our team have watched their people progress quickly through their careers with that support.”  

That has come through long-term relationships between Primary ITO advisers and Ngāi Tahu where new starters in the industry work their way up with training, and eventually mentor their own staff into training. 

Karen is a strong believer in careers in the dairy industry and says the workforce is very multicultural with an even more diverse demographic since the Covid-19 pandemic. 

A lot more Kiwis are entering the industry and she is also seeing a lot more career-changers who are embracing all the dairy industry has to offer. 

“Our training advisers are seeing a lot of keen and motivated young people looking for opportunities in the dairy industry and they all seem to be enjoying it. They realise there is a clear pathway and are enjoying being outdoors and the variety the job has to offer.

“They do the practical on-farm work, but the Primary ITO programmes teach them the theory, the ’why’ and it helps them make sense of what they’re doing on-farm. It supports their progress.” 

Ngāi Tahu Farming manager Aiden Bettridge credits Primary ITO programmes for helping him in his rise through the dairy industry. Having started off as a milk harvester in the Bay of Plenty, Aiden saw a future in the industry and headed to Canterbury in 2015 to a job (and a girlfriend – now wife) as a dairy assistant at West Eyreton. 

He began training with Primary ITO in 2016 and is continuing to study more than five years and several jobs and roles later. 

Aiden is now studying for a Primary ITO Diploma through Ara Institute of Canterbury and will also work towards a Level 5 Production Management qualification. 

As an employer, he is also working with a training adviser to support his own staff through their Primary ITO programmes. 

Aiden says the programmes provide a good knowledge base that complements the practical learning. 

“It’s good being able to reflect back on it and go back to the information if you get stuck on something.” 

Over the years, he says he has had really good employers that have been very supportive of his study, but his qualifications have also enabled him to get jobs. 

“It’s good to have the paperwork to fall back on.” 

He says in his current role, Ngāi Tahu and his General Manager have been very supportive of his study, initially contributing financially (the programmes are currently government-funded), but also supporting him with time and a place to study when required. 

Aiden admits it does take some discipline to study while working, particularly the more advanced Level 5 qualifications. 

“It’s hard to achieve that work life balance but at the end of the day you know it’s a massive achievement and a qualification.”   

Ngāi Tahu Farming’s Technical Farm Manager Ash-Leigh Campbell also knows first-hand the value and worth of studying while working. She is a great advocate for Primary ITO programmes. 

“It is rewarding to see staff further their careers and see their skill set grow, both on-farm and in the classroom.” 

She says Ngāi Tahu strongly encourages staff to enrol with Primary ITO and they work alongside an adviser to ensure the programmes match an individual’s competency levels as they progress through the industry.

To find out more about building your team’s capability, contact your local Training Adviser on 0800 20 80 20 or get in touch