Mike Chapman, CEO Horticulture New Zealand:

"Supporting great careers in horticulture"

Getting the horticulture careers message out to people at school, looking for the opportunity for an exciting career, is a big challenge.

by Mike Chapman

Over the years, we've learned a few lessons about how to encourage people into horticulture, and we are now putting this into practice through a series of initiatives. The driving force behind these is a joint venture of horticultural associations that have combined these resources to get the biggest impact. In that group are New Zealand Kiwifruit Growers, New Zealand Apples and Pears, NZ Avocado Growers, Vegetables New Zealand, the Hawke’s Bay Fruit Growers Association, and Horticulture New Zealand. Collectively, we work to make a real difference to everyone who wants a career in horticulture. But first we need to get that word out about the career options, develop tailored training for each applicant, and link them with employers.

When considering career options for those about to leave school, engaging with parents is also very important; they also need to understand the full range of opportunities.

Often the question is: why horticulture? The answer is easy: we’re a rapidly growing, innovative industry, and we produce healthy, locally grown food – just what consumers want. Technology will play an increasingly important part in horticulture’s future, and that is already requiring a whole range of new skills.

The Ministry for Primary Industries is predicting our export growth to be 15.7% to June this year, and it will not stop there; the demand for our product from overseas consumers is only getting stronger. In addition, the skills gained through horticulture have wide application across the rest of the primary sector, and indeed all industries that support the primary sector.

To make all this happen, the Provincial Growth Fund has stepped up with over $1 million, to create a network of career progression managers across the country, whose role is to find these jobseekers, no matter where they come from, excite them about horticulture, and develop their pathway into a long and rewarding career.

The industry is matching the government’s commitment through cash, resources and employment. As Minister Jones said when announcing this incredibly valuable support, “through our investment we expect to see a marked improvement in the amount of sustainable employment opportunities for domestic workers to meet our goal of having a fit-for-purpose workforce that meets industry standards”.

And that is our goal too; we want to employ Kiwis, and we want to give them a great career. We want to get them into horticulture apprenticeships with the Primary Industry Training Organisation, and we want them to do the Horticulture Degree at Massey University. We want them to take on whatever training is best suited to their needs and ability, and to progressively develop their skills as they work in horticulture.

As the Minister said, we have the tools to meet face to face with our workforce of the future and put in place the development programme to harness there skills. We are tapping into this pipeline, which will benefit our young and older people in our regions.

So thank you Minister; you have given us the tool to make a real difference.

For more information
HortNZ

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