Cul­ti­vate your ca­reer day

There’s no disputing that New Zealand’s $8.7bil­lion hor­ti­cul­ture in­dus­try is about a whole lot more than pick­ing and pack­ing and dirt and bad weather, but con­vinc­ing a gen­er­a­tion of high school stu­dents (and their par­ents) of that is another story.

The Orchardist - - Education - Story and pho­tos by Ali­son McCul­loch

The in­dus­try has in­vested a lot of time and re­sources into high­light­ing the range of high­level ca­reers on of­fer, but neg­a­tive at­ti­tudes can be tough to shift. One key event on the at­ti­tudeshift­ing cal­en­dar is the an­nual Bay of Plenty ‘Cul­ti­vate Your Ca­reer’ day, which this year took a new ap­proach, bussing 230 stu­dents on a ‘Jour­ney of Dis­cov­ery’ to see for them­selves what the in­dus­try has to of­fer.

In pre­vi­ous years, stu­dents have gath­ered at the site of the Bay of Plenty Young Or­chardist of the Year event for a range of pre­sen­ta­tions and hands-on ac­tiv­i­ties. This year, or­gan­is­ers switched things up a notch, tak­ing the Year 11 to Year 13 stu­dents from 17 schools out to six busi­nesses in and around Te Puke: the honey

com­pany Comvita, Eurofins Bay of Plenty, Plant & Food Re­search, the or­chard man­age­ment com­pany BayGold and post-har­vest op­er­a­tors Trevelyan’s and EastPack.

“This is a chance for stu­dents to see the dif­fer­ent op­por­tu­ni­ties that are avail­able to them in the hor­ti­cul­ture in­dus­try first­hand”, said one of the or­gan­is­ers, Kate Long­man, chair of Bay of Plenty Young Fruit Grower Up­skilling Inc.

With 80% of ki­wifruit grow­ers aged over 50, get­ting young peo­ple into the busi­ness is a pri­or­ity. Kate said the event had grown from just a few schools and tens of stu­dents a few years ago to the 200-plus stu­dents this year and a much big­ger range of schools. “The in­dus­try is re­spond­ing to the de­mand from the schools, and also the de­mand from our in­dus­try to be more proac­tive in our stu­dents’ ed­u­ca­tion and en­sur­ing that they’re tran­si­tion­ing into ca­reers to sup­port our re­gion,” she said.

AT­TI­TUDES HARD TO CHANGE

As well as pre­sen­ta­tions, tours and hands-on ac­tiv­i­ties at the sites, the stu­dents were ac­com­pa­nied by in­dus­try am­bas­sadors, in­clud­ing the 2017 Bay of Plenty Young Fruit Grower of the Year, Erin Atkinson. “That’s how I ended up in the in­dus­try,” Erin said. “I went on a field day one day, and went ‘oh wow, I re­ally like this’, so hope­fully if that can hap­pen with this, then that’s cool.” But Erin is frank when asked if she thinks at­ti­tudes are chang­ing: “No! I still don’t think they are much.” So what are the ob­sta­cles? “The fact that hor­ti­cul­ture is not avail­able in a lot of schools; the fact that a lot of peo­ple don’t find it a very ap­peal­ing in­dus­try, be­cause they think it’s all dirt and plants,” she said, “which ob­vi­ously isn’t the case, there’s more to it. And a lot of peo­ple think if you study hor­ti­cul­ture, that’s a dumb sub­ject, it’s easy, you’re not go­ing to get any­thing out of it, which is not the case at all.”

One of the teach­ers along for the day was Pa­trick Martin, the Head of Agri­cul­ture and Hor­ti­cul­ture at Te Puke High School. He too, says it’s not easy get­ting stu­dents ex­cited about hor­ti­cul­ture as a ca­reer op­tion, and says some of that comes from their par­ents, who can have pre­con­ceived ideas about what’s on of­fer.

“Some of it around the Te Puke area is that stu­dents are see­ing it all the time and it’s just so fa­mil­iar and all they see from the road­side when they go past is pick­ing and pack­ing. They don’t

see, like we saw to­day, the tech­nol­ogy that’s in­volved and the ex­cite­ment of the peo­ple who are work­ing there,” he said.

The ‘Jour­ney of Dis­cov­ery’ is “just the sort of thing that needs to be done”, Pa­trick said. “It’s al­most im­pos­si­ble to do it in a class­room sit­u­a­tion be­cause it’s just the teacher talk­ing, and they need to see it for them­selves.”

The ‘Jour­ney of Dis­cov­ery’ is just the sort of thing that needs to be done. It’s al­most im­pos­si­ble to do it in a class­room sit­u­a­tion be­cause it’s just the teacher talk­ing, and they need to see it for them­selves.”

At BayGold, stu­dents were bro­ken into teams to count ki­wifruit and as­sess the num­ber of re­jects.

The hair­nets caused a bit of a stir dur­ing the tour of EastPack’s Quarry Road site, which packs around 15 mil­lion trays of ki­wifruit in a sea­son.

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