NZPPI member Zealandia Horticulture has been working with students and teachers in Canterbury to promote the exciting career options available in plant production.
Zealandia Horticulture is part of the Secondary School Employer Partnership, a collaboration initiative enabling better connections between education and food and fiber sectors. Working with year 9 and 10 students, employers' representatives such as Zealandia Horticulture provide opportunities for students to see their science curriculum learning applied to real-world contexts.
As part of Zealandia Horticulture's involvement, managers Karen and Paul Wylaars first visited Papanui High School classrooms to show students how to experiment with and care for lettuce seedlings. Those students then did a follow-up nursery site visit and were given a tour of operations and shown the latest technology and innovation, including robotics.
Papanui teacher Rebecca Aitken said the Zealandia Horticulture site visits "blew their wee minds. I heard so many students say, 'I want to work here.' They are always particularly interested in the machinery and vehicles, but the visit also showed them the scope of the nursery production and where their vegetables actually come from."
"It's great to see the variety of jobs from seeding, to growing, production and order filling, to logistics and truck driving. The visit also demonstrated the rewards of working hard: workers can start at the bottom and work their way through to senior levels."
Karen Wylaars said Zealandia Horticulture struggled to find new staff who have a real passion for plants and for science and this prompted their involvement in SSEP.
"It enables us to reach out to young people in our community and introduce them to the industry that's literally just down the road. We need growers who are keen to learn in-house about the science behind what makes a plant grow but also have what we call in the industry a "green finger." This is an opportunity for us to talk about science but equally to demonstrate the logistics of growing plants – the machinery, the forklifts, the trucks, and e-vehicles. Since joining SSEP, we've seen a jump in applications from Papanui High School leavers wanting an evening shift, which is very promising."
SSEP Canterbury Facilitator Amber Law says despite COVID-19 disruptions and restrictions, Zealandia Horticulture was one of the first employers to commit to the SSEP.
"Zealandia Horticulture has opened their doors and offered an insight into an aspect of horticulture that many would not have the opportunity to experience. This relationship and experience has been invaluable for both teachers and their students."
For more information:
New Zealand Plant Producers Incorporated