Training a vital investment

By David Burt

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The merger of several Industry Training Organisations (ITO) aims to improve professional training and development across the primary sector.

The first of these was the consolidation of primary sector ITOs which took place in two stages, merging the Seafood ITO and the Meat & Dairy sectors' NZITO in July and the formation of the Primary Industries ITO (PrITO) from the merger of AgITO and the Horticulture ITO in October.

The changes allow the better integration of training courses, provide more resources for training and deliver better outcomes for the sector.

Given that agriculture brought more than $26 billion in export revenue into New Zealand in the year ending June 2012, it is essential to ensure the sector's workforce has the skills it needs to maximise returns. With five per cent of New Zealand's population employed in agriculture, it is essential the sector ensures its workforce has the training it needs to reach its full potential.

Staff are a valuable business asset and their value can be maximised by developing and leveraging their existing and potential attributes.

Workplace training involves employees acquiring specific, generally work-related skills, knowledge and competencies. Both employees and employers benefit from well-designed and implemented training programmes.

Employees see training as evidence their employer values them enough to invest in and benefit by increasing their potential market value. Employers benefit by having a more capable and engaged workforce.

Historically in the agricultural sector, while on-the-job training was provided, new knowledge, skills and competencies have often been acquired informally while growing up and working on the family farm.

Some people gained their skills through formal residential vocational training or tertiary study.

While both these pathways are very successful and many of their graduates move on to work, manage or own agricultural businesses, these more academic frameworks have some limitations in the modern agricultural business environment.

Places on residential vocational courses are limited and undertaking a university degree is expensive and requires a significant time commitment. This is not as suited to people with a more practical bent.

The sector is aware of these issues and is moving to address the current limitations around training and career development on several fronts.

This is supported by the second development; the recently conducted review of agricultural training by the New Zealand Qualifications Authority. The proposed qualifications suit a range of skill levels, from the Level 2 Primary Industry Skills certificates to Level 5 Agribusiness Management certificates.

The aim is to provide students with a more flexible and useable career path, allowing more movement between different sector areas.

Employers will have the assurance that qualified students have attained necessary skills and experience.

The third development is the expansion of the residential agricultural training farm programme, with several new residential training farms to be established in Whangarei and possibly Otago, Southland or Canterbury.

These and other initiatives, taken in totality, demonstrate New Zealand's agricultural training providers are focused on producing the well trained and adaptable workforce the sector needs. The Federation looks forward to reaping the benefits of this effort in future years, both by farmers and the wider economy.

- Hamilton News

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