They may have graduated just last week, but six of the nine students who took on the agricultural course at Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology’s Whakatāne campus this year have already landed jobs.
The six students are all working on farms as dairy assistants; Toi Ohomai agriculture tutor Rachel Nash says the starting salary for these sorts of positions is about $40,000 a year.
She says while the work and hours can be tough, there are also plenty of benefits including a place to live.
“There’s no driving to and from work! It’s also nice for these guys to have a bit of independence and have a place to call their own.
“They can also be home in the morning to have breakfast with their kids before they go to school. Or pop home at lunchtime to put something on for dinner. It is a great lifestyle and the work is varied and interesting.”
Rachel says during the course the students do a five-week placement on a farm at calving time, which is the busiest time of the year, to gain real life experience and to prepare them for when they start working fulltime.
“They get experience in getting calves and cows in, milking, feeding calves, treating any sick animals and feeding out. They get to do all sorts and really, it’s sink or swim.
“At the end of the five weeks, they soon decide whether they want to work on a farm or not. Mostly they love it and they don’t want to come back to class after doing the stuff on farms.”
Rachel says while on the course the students learn plenty of hands-on skills that will help with their employment and the five-week placement helps to consolidate that learning.
“A lot of the stuff that we have done in the classroom has prepared them for this so they know what’s going to happen on a day-to-day basis but the placement just means they are able to apply the theory knowledge to stuff that happens on a farm.
“But it is not only the practical kinds of things that is beneficial to them – it’s the non-farming stuff that they have to do every day – establishing a relationship with the farmer, getting along well with the other staff members, working as part of a team. It also ensures they are reliable and punctual – all of those kinds of non-farming things that are essential to becoming employed.”
Rachel says she uses her industry connections to get them a foot in the door but the students have to prove themselves if they want a full-time job.
“Toi Ohomai is lucky in the Eastern Bay, we are so well-supported by local farmers. We’ve got a large number of farmers who are happy to have students on farm. They’re pleased to be able to encourage them and teach them the skills they need in the industry.”
Rachel says the farming industry is calling out for skilled workers so encourages anyone looking at entering the agriculture industry to consider signing up with Toi Ohomai.
She says in the past eight years, she has helped to find employment for more than 85 people.
“Out of that 85 there’s only been about four or five who have been employed out of the region and then they’ve come back because they like to be close to home and close to family. And, if we can help with that then we will.”
The institute’s agriculture course involves two programmes consisting of New Zealand Certificate in Agriculture (Farming Systems) (Level 3) and the New Zealand Certificate in Agriculture (Vehicles, Machinery and Infrastructure) (Level 3). The programmes are run congruently and upon completion the students receive two certificates proving they have skills to work on farms.
In the farming systems component, students learn about livestock handling, animal welfare, nutrition, anatomy, soil and pastures, as well as sustainability in the industry and health and safety.
During the vehicles, machinery and infrastructure sections of the course, they learn how to safely operate, fix and maintain farm vehicles as well as being able to build and repair farming structures such as fences, calf pens and wool sheds. They also learn to operate and maintain chainsaws safely.