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 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.”