Agriculture failing to grow local skills
Where once New Zealand exported its agriculture talents to the world, now there are not enough New Zealanders to fill highly skilled jobs in the industry.
Five agricultural science occupations were added to the Labour Department’s long-term skills shortage list to enable migrants to fill the gaps.
But industry veterans have warned that migrants could lack the required knowledge of New Zealand’s agriculture and that shortages could become acute.
Agresearch farm systems scientist Warren King said there needed to be greater efforts to entice ‘‘bright young things’’ to extend their degrees in the field.
‘‘We’ve now got quite a cohort of very senior agricultural scientists that are not very far away from retiring.
Massey University director of agriculture Jacqueline Rowarth said the agricultural skills shortage was a spinoff from decades of the industry being undervalued.
Since the late 1980s, agriculture had been seen as a ‘‘sunset industry’’ and blamed for polluting waterways and dirty dairying practices put young people off the agricultural career path. Another reason for the shortage was a lack of students staying at university to complete Phds, which were required for most agricultural scientist positions.
The addition of occupations including agricultural scientist (farm systems scientist), biotechnologist (genetics scientist) and environmental research scientist (water quality analyst) to the skills shortage list signalled a long-term and global issue in the workforce.
Prof Rowarth warned that some positions could not be filled by migrants, because they required hands-on knowledge of New Zealand’s agriculture.
AGRICULTURAL SHORTAGE: Call to youth to fill agriculture skills gap.