Grow­ing peo­ple and pipfruit

The Orchardist - - Careers - By Kate Long­man

Andy Ng’s job at Ti­maru’s M A Or­chards could not be more dif­fer­ent from his for­mer ca­reer as a hair­dresser.

The 37-year-old worked cut­ting hair for 13 years be­fore deciding he needed a change. He ap­plied for a job with the Ti­maru-based ap­ple grower M A Or­chards and has not looked back.

To give him the skills he needed in his new ca­reer, Andy em­barked on a New Zealand Ap­pren­tice­ship in Hor­ti­cul­ture Pro­duc­tion (NZAHP), through Pri­mary ITO, which has al­lowed him to gain in­sight into ev­ery as­pect of the or­chard busi­ness. “It’s quite a chal­lenge be­cause there are so many things in­volved, from grow­ing to chem­i­cal and bi­o­log­i­cal sci­ences – it’s not just about grow­ing ap­ples, there is so much more to it.”

Andy said he un­der­took the NZAHP to in­crease his knowl­edge – both prac­ti­cal and the­o­ret­i­cal – of op­er­at­ing an or­chard. He finds pest and dis­ease con­trol an in­ter­est­ing part of his job. An­other as­pect he en­joys is be­ing out­doors, which is quite a change from be­ing stuck in­side a hair salon for so many years.

Lyssa Jones found her ca­reer of choice while study­ing for a Bach­e­lor of Arts in com­mu­ni­ca­tions and mar­ket­ing. It was nei­ther the com­mu­ni­ca­tions or mar­ket­ing that caught her at­ten­tion, but the hol­i­day job in the or­chard where she is now em­ployed full-time. She de­scribes the or­chard as her happy place and she loves ev­ery as­pect of the work, from the hands-on or­chard work, to the busi­ness side of the


“I like the sea­sonal na­ture of the work, the great range of peo­ple and see­ing the whole grow­ing

process from start to fin­ish.”

Lyssa has found many of the skills gained study­ing for her de­gree have been trans­fer­able and she is in charge of com­pli­ance for M A Or­chards. It’s a big job in a five-or­chard busi­ness, one of which is cer­ti­fied or­ganic while two are go­ing through the reg­is­tra­tion process.

She said there is a lot of pres­sure to get com­pli­ance right be­cause if they don’t, the ap­ples have to be di­rected into a dif­fer­ent mar­ket at pos­si­bly dis­counted prices.

M A Or­chards grows Hon­ey­crisp ap­ples, a va­ri­ety that won’t be found in New Zealand su­per­mar­kets

as the en­tire crop is ex­ported to the United States. Lyssa saids Hon­ey­crisp is a dif­fi­cult ap­ple to grow and han­dle as it bruises eas­ily, but it does at­tract a solid pre­mium.

To help for­malise all she has learnt, and is learn­ing, Lyssa be­gan Pri­mary ITO’s New Zealand Ap­pren­tice­ship in Hor­ti­cul­ture Pro­duc­tion a few months ago. She said the ap­pren­tice­ship will help tie all as­pects of the busi­ness to­gether and it will give her a qual­i­fi­ca­tion while she is earn­ing.

Ask Lyssa about her fu­ture and she is un­equiv­o­cal about her de­sire to re­main in the or­chard in­dus­try.

“Ab­so­lutely I see a fu­ture in it. I’m happy where I am at the mo­ment and lov­ing learn­ing about all the dif­fer­ent parts of the busi­ness.”

Lyssa is part of a team of 40 at M A Or­chards but over the har­vest pe­riod, staff num­bers rise to 200, with much of the labour force com­ing in the form of recog­nised sea­sonal em­ployer (RSE) work­ers from Van­u­atu.

Of­fi­cially launched at the 2018 Hor­ti­cul­ture Con­fer­ence in Christchurch by the Min­is­ter of Agri­cul­ture, the Hon Damien O’Con­nor, the NZAHP was de­vel­oped by Pri­mary ITO in part­ner­ship with in­dus­try. Speak­ing at the launch, Ju­lian Raine, the pres­i­dent of Hor­ti­cul­ture New Zealand, said the sec­tor will re­quire an ex­tra 25,000 peo­ple within the next 10 years to meet its ca­pa­bil­ity re­quire­ments and these peo­ple will need to be smart and tech-savvy.

Pri­mary ITO chief ex­ec­u­tive, Dr Linda Sis­sons said the three­year ap­pren­tice­ship pro­gramme, which will em­ploy 100 peo­ple a year, is a first step to­ward cre­at­ing a pre­mium path­way for as­pir­ing lead­ers in the hor­ti­cul­ture sec­tor.

The ap­pren­tices will be sup­ported in their pro­fes­sional de­vel­op­ment by their em­ployer, Pri­mary ITO and off-site train­ing providers.

“The ap­pren­tice­ship sig­nals to fu­ture tal­ent that em­ploy­ers are will­ing to in­vest in their de­vel­op­ment.”

It also shifts the con­ver­sa­tion from sea­sonal labour to a long-term ca­reer op­tion in what is a buoy­ant sec­tor of the econ­omy.

Pri­mary ITO train­ing ad­viser, Ge­off Bryant said while there has al­ways been a hor­ti­cul­ture ap­pren­tice­ship pro­gramme, the new NZAHP is di­vided into strands spe­cific to the many dif­fer­ent fields of hor­ti­cul­ture such as crop veg­eta­bles, pipfruit or­chards or amenity plant nurs­eries. Pre­vi­ously, ap­pren­tices were given a se­lec­tion of units from which they could choose, but it of­ten ended up with a mish-mash that wasn’t en­tirely spe­cific for the area in which they were work­ing.

He said some ar­eas of the qual­i­fi­ca­tion do have a de­gree of flex­i­bil­ity and if ap­pren­tices want to com­pletely change tack and work in a dif­fer­ent field of hor­ti­cul­ture, there may be an op­por­tu­nity to cross-credit some units.

Ge­off said the tran­si­tion to the NZAHP has so far been seam­less and has been ac­cepted well by both ap­pren­tices and em­ploy­ers in his area. As a train­ing ad­viser, he vis­its the ap­pren­tices within his re­gion ev­ery three months, help­ing set goals, mon­i­tor progress and pro­vide sup­port where re­quired.

Com­ing from a nurs­ery back­ground, Ge­off un­der­stands the in­dus­try well and has been in­volved with hor­ti­cul­tural ed­u­ca­tion for sev­eral years – so he knows the ropes in terms of in­dus­try re­quire­ments.

To reg­is­ter your in­ter­est for the NZ Ap­pren­tice­ship in Hor­ti­cul­ture Pro­duc­tion, visit www.lets­

“The ap­pren­tice­ship sig­nals to fu­ture tal­ent that em­ploy­ers are will­ing to in­vest in their de­vel­op­ment.”

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