NZ: Opportunities in horticulture for school leavers

School leavers should consider horticulture as a career filled with variety, relevance and opportunities to see the world. ‘Horticulture has a massive range of careers to choose from,’ says Erin Simpson, Head of Capability Development at NZ Apples and Pears. ‘It’s not about picking bags and ladders anymore.

‘The horticulture sector is expecting growth of nearly 4% this year on top of massive growth last year. This growth is creating fantastic opportunities for school leavers wanting to work in a sector that can take them places and pay them well.’ 

Erin is part of the Horticulture Capability Group (HCG), which was promoting the industry at this year's Careers and Transition Education Association (CATE) Conference.

At the conference, Meg Becker – Senior Leading Hand at T&G Global, Hiraina Tangiora – External Relations Coordinator at Zespri, and Sam Reynolds – Cropping Manager at Bostock NZ Ltd., shared their diverse career stories.

Meg Becker says that she had her eyes opened to horticulture while studying at Massey University. After starting a Bachelor of Agriscience, she changed to a horticulture major after a brief stint in a kiwifruit packhouse.

During her studies, Meg received a T&G undergraduate scholarship, which gave her opportunities to travel the world and progress her career.

‘The International Horticultural Immersion Programme (IHIP) was a massive career accelerator,’ says Meg. 

‘We travelled to Europe and Asia to see the emerging technology being used by leading international growers. I learnt many technical and leadership skills that I have brought to my work at T&G. It’s an exciting time to join the industry.’

A recurring message from careers advisors and the horticulture industry is that people don’t know about the range of career options available.

‘In most cases, parents and teenagers are not aware of the range of career options and pathways that are available,’ says Mike Chapman, Horticulture New Zealand Chief Executive.

‘These career opportunities include design, engineering, research and development, and marketing, alongside growing, packing and cool storage. 

‘We must continue to change the perception of the food and fibre sector so that horticulture is seen as a first-choice career option.’

Erin says to get started in a horticulture career you don’t have to be from a farming background or know much about the industry. 

‘You can bring your unique interests, skills, and experiences to horticulture and we’ll teach you the rest. There’s such a wide range of opportunities out there.  All you need is passion. There’s something in horticulture for everyone.’

The Horticulture Capability Group (HCG) is a joint venture between Horticulture New Zealand, New Zealand Apples & Pears, New Zealand Kiwifruit Growers Incorporated, New Zealand Avocado, Vegetables New Zealand Incorporated, and the Hawke's Bay Fruit Growers Association.

Horticulture New Zealand represents 5000 growers.  The horticulture industry employs more than 60,000 people. 

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