A WORLD-CLASS learning environment being set up in rural Mid Canterbury will provide elite education to strengthen New Zealand’s primary industries, cofounder and director Matt Jones says. NZ has a world-class agriculture industry and a reputation to match and Agri Training will develop innovative thinkers with the practical skills to be part of the solutions. Agri Training’s fundamental purpose is to lead primary industries qualification standards to an all-time high while preserving respected farming traditions, he said. “The learning and teaching belief structure at Agri Training is driven by a desire to create a stronger agriculture sector in NZ. “Our focus is to ensure students graduate with the entire range of skills and knowledge that is required to succeed and lead in the primary industry. “There’s a gap in the market for a better and higher level of training on a vocational basis and at Agri Training we aim to fill that gap.” Training has been structured to fit with students in full-time work with studies covering diplomas in agriculture and management and finance. In time it’s planned to include horticulture.
Agri Training is based at the former AgResearch site at Winchmore in Mid Canterbury. Jones said the training centre has been a long time in the planning and key to it getting going was finding a suitable site. “What better than the Winchmore research site. The buildings and infrastructure are all here, ready and waiting.” The site was sold earlier in the year ending more than 70 years of NZ agriculture history. It opened in 1946 to do local research into the use of borderdyke irrigation. Long-term fertiliser trials started in the 1950s. The Winchmore research farm contributed to more than 500 science publications. But Crown-owned institute AgResearch called time on its 72 years of ownership and use as a research station. “That opened doors for new and exciting things for NZ primary industries,” Jones said. Agri Training will lease the buildings from the new owner, a local farmer. It will be fully user-pays and has a goal of lifting training to a new standard in partnership with City and Guilds, which has been providing technical skills education and corporate learning development training programmes since 1878. That partnership complements the Agri Training programme so gives credibility to the diplomas for graduates and employers. The programme will have specialist streams across dairy production, arable, sheep and beef and deer offering students skill choices for the future and wide-ranging knowledge as part of an innovative strategy that will offer a unique approach to training and assessment across the agricultural industry, Jones said.
With 20 years involvement in agribusiness recruitment Jones believes he knows what the industry needs and what employers want. “Having dealt with thousands of clients and potential candidates who were looking to be placed within the primary industries I can see from both sides the skills that are desperately needed by employers and in demand by candidates.” This has been taken into account as the Agri Training programme has been built and as a result a style of training has been developed to ensure students are trained in a very accountable way that is transparent to employers who can literally see what they are getting during farm placements and when hiring graduates. “One key element of the education industry is that we are very aware of how future employers perceive qualifications and what it will mean to them in terms of valuable employees. “Industry has lost faith in what value of training is being delivered. “Feedback to date indicates the programme will produce elite graduates who can hit the ground running with confidence and capability.” Agri Training has already attracted a strong group of potential students ranging from secondary school leavers considering their careers to people in the workforce considering a change. The programme, led by two full-time tutors, can take up to 25 students with the first intake set to start in February and a second planned for March. Student placements will be across Canterbury with a network of supportive employer partners. The agriculture diploma fee is $15,000 for two years and agriculture business management $10,000. “Students are working full-time while they do this training so it’s very affordable. “It’s taken two years to get accredited and eight months to find the suitable location but we are all set to go – roll on February.”