Cadet scheme return called for
Farming leaders keen to see better trained farm workers
The much-mourned Farm Cadet Scheme could be on the way back in response to farmer demand for a higher-quality, better-trained workforce.
New Primary Industry Training Organisation chief executive Mark Jeffries has accepted a challenge from some Waikato farming leaders unhappy with the standard of farm staff training.
He is initiating talks with Federated Farmers to test demand for a new ‘‘gold standard’’ cadet training programme and how it would be funded.
But Jeffries makes it clear any rejuvenation of the cadet scheme will rely on a strong partnership with farmers.
He said expectations will be on farmers to fulfil training standards as well as on trainees.
Jeffries’ undertaking to start discussions with Federated Farmers’ national office follows his attendance at a Waikato dairy industry group meeting after calls from local federation leaders to bring back the cadet scheme.
The original scheme, a threeyear course where cadets studied for trade certificates with practical training provided by approved farmers, was founded by Federated Farmers in 1974.
Funding assistance was from the then Ministry of Agriculture. Training officers ran the scheme.
It was expanded in 1976 to include the equine and horticulture industries and within 10 years there were 1600 cadets.
But by 1988 numbers had fallen to 1000 in an agriculture downturn triggered by the removal of subsidies.
In 1990 the Farm Education Training Association took over the scheme from Federated Farmers and in 1995 the association became the Agriculture Industry Training Organisation, which expanded activities and launched the first modern apprenticeships in 2000, offering 50 qualifications across a range of sectors.
Waikato dairy leaders last month said they were frustrated with the standard of ITO trainees, who often could do only one task, such as drive a tractor or milk cows.
Farmers needed staff who could ‘‘ do everything’’, which the old farm cadet scheme produced, they said.