Trades Academy paving the way for young women in farming

10 August 2022

When traditionally thinking of a farmer, New Zealanders often picture a ‘good Kiwi bloke’, surrounded by dogs, driving an ATV and patrolling vast high-country stations.

Victoria Draper, Trades Academy Tutor and former Trades Academy student, is trying to change that picture by inspiring young women to get into farming.  She is enacting change by leading all-female Trades Academy groups. Victoria states, “having female-oriented groups has helped to give more young women a place to get their foot in the door and gain experience”. “The girls support each other to complete tasks; they have a positive working environment which enables them to improve their practical skills and techniques”.  

One of Victoria’s students in the female led programme is 17-year-old Upper Hutt College student, Dannielle Fitness. Dannielle has always been interested in farming but was never quite sure how access a pathway into the industry. “I’d been intrigued by the industry for a while, having seen my family do some farming, but was never able to get involved”. One day she was at her school assembly, where they were talking about the Primary ITO Trades Academy, and for Dannielle, this was the perfect opportunity to give it a go. 

Dannielle was ecstatic she got a placement in the programme, saying, “it is an amazing experience being able to go different places and go out on farms. I have learnt such a wide range of skills”. When Dannielle first started, she said she “had very little knowledge of farming and what it involved”, so she found it interesting to expand her understanding with skills like “learning all the different medications and vaccinations that animals get”. 

For Dannielle, participating in the Primary ITO Trades Academy programme has given her skills for life she never thought she would have had the chance to learn. Her goal in the future is to “be able to live and work on a farm, hopefully, either on a sheep, beef farm or in milking”. 

Another of Victoria’s students, Chanica Pieterse from Upper Hutt college, is so passionate about the agricultural industry that she waited a year to get into the programme. Chanica says, “Trades Academy is an amazing experience. I get to meet new people, get outdoors and learn such a wide range of skills”. Victoria states “Chanica has gone from strength to strength, starting out with knowing next to nothing to seeing her be successful in the tasks she now carries out on her own”. 

Victoria is immensely proud to see the “girls continuously improving and becoming successful in what they try out”. You see them light up and get that spark”. When Victoria started, she was the only female in her group, so she finds it “incredible to see the growth in the number of females wanting to join in”. 

There are a range of learning opportunities available at the Primary ITO Trades Academy, and students can gain credits towards an NCEA Level 2 and 3 qualification and achieve the NZ Certificate in Primary Industry Skills Level 2. 

Shane Boderick, Primary ITO Team Leader Trades Academy Tutors, says, “we currently have over 1330 students across New Zealand studying in our Trades Academy programme". "It is great to see these young women grow in their abilities over the course of the year”. 

The programme is based on a partnership between schools and the Primary ITO. All schools involved in the Trades Academy deliver unit standards from the Trades Academy Primary Industry Skills (Level 2) programme. Students get to go out on the farm once per week with a Primary ITO tutor, where they get to see various farms during the year, gaining the practical skills and theoretical knowledge that will help them make informed choices about their career options. 

Susan Hanlan, former Head of the Careers and Transition Department at Heretaunga College, says students can gain “soft and hard skills” that set them up for life. Susan stated, “when Trades Academy started, only a few students applied. Now it is something everyone wants to be part of because it is such a unique programme and has led to more people discovering the number of different jobs available in the primary industries”. Students get the opportunity to learn about “moving animals, the life-stages of animals, cattle work, sheep work, fencing, it is learning you just don’t get in a classroom”. 

For any senior high student who likes spending time outdoors, being surrounded by stunning landscapes, and getting hands-on, the Primary ITO Trades Academy programme can provide an exciting first step towards an amazing career in the primary industries.  

Find out more about the Trades Academy programme here