Agri­cul­ture fail­ing to grow lo­cal skills

South Waikato News - - NEWS -

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.

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