Federated Farmers' recent push to promote dairy apprenticeships is just what the industry needs, Horowhenua sharemilker Richard McIntyre says.
Mr McIntyre, who milks 450 cows at Poroutawhao as a sharemilker, has his finger on the pulse of the industry. He is also the chair of Federated Farmers' dairy section, and is involved with the Dairy Awards Institute. He's also on the steering group of the apprenticeship scheme.
"There needs to be progression through the industry for young people so it becomes a good career choice for them," Mr McIntyre said. "That's a big one for me, something I am very passionate about."
"These apprenticeships focus on teaching and fill a big gap in the industry. Not all farmers like teaching and some workers just want to work, not learn. The scheme brings learner and teacher together. It is really important that farmers and workers or apprentices fit together, for the relationship to work."
The scheme is run by Primary ITO which signs up the apprentices, while Federated Farmers engage the farmers. Unique to this scheme is the fact that farmers who sign up sign a Farm Charter, a commitment to provide a work environment that best supports the training and development of apprentices as well as a commitment from Federated Farmers to ensure they have the tools to do this.
"The really cool thing is the mentoring aspect of the scheme," said Mr McIntyre. "It involves goal setting and achieving of those goals and regular visits from someone from Primary ITO means they stay on track with their learning."
A willingness to learn and a desire to progress are essential for anyone embarking on this scheme as an apprentice.
"A farmer has goals too and both parties can help each other achieve those goals. "I have personal and business goals that I share with my two staff as they help me achieve my goals."
Mr McIntyre believes the new scheme also means a chance for farm owners to upskills. "Employers in this industry do not do that enough," he said.
Potential employers need to meet certain requirements before they are enrolled and organisers of the apprenticeship scheme can help them get ready for it.
The apprenticeship scheme is a three-year programme as an entry into the industry. Both school leavers and career changers can qualify.
Mr McIntyre said the demand for qualified staff in the industry is high. "We need to attract more people and retain those we already have, and this scheme will help immensely with that. "There is a need for talented and skilled people, as there is a great future in dairying."
Mr McIntyre and his wife employ two staff who want to stay on, but if their staff move on they will be looking at taking on an apprentice to give someone a leg up into a good career. Mr McIntyre emphasised the importance of achieving the right fit between farmers/owners and workers for both parties to have a successful relationship and career.
"A third party, like Primary ITO through this scheme, can mediate that match, so everyone is off to a great start. "Dairying is much more than a job, it is a career."
To sign up as an apprentice go to www.farmapprentice.co.nz
Farmers who would like an apprentice can contact Federated Farmers.