About 3000 more people begin work in agriculture industry annually to replace those leaving because of retirement and other reasons and more staff are required for industry growth, says Taratahi Agricultural Training Centre board chairman David Nelson.
He told 40 graduating Whangarei and Dargaville agriculture students that a 40-year quarterly high in New Zealand's balance of payments this year was mainly driven by agriculture.
Nelson and the graduates were at the 232ha Titoki farm owned by Ian and Helen Hilford, where Taratahi signed an agreement in June to become the variable order sharemilker so it can provide Northland students with on-site dairy farming experience. The students' graduation ceremony was held in a renovated calf shed on the training farm.
Arlene Sangster took top honours among the National Certificate in Farming Skills Work Ready (Level 3) semester 2 graduates.
Renata Saddlier led the semester 1 students on that course and Joel Vieviorka topped the National Certificate in Agriculture level 4 class.
Ian Hilford says Taratahi's philosophy of "real training on real farms" was imperative to continue attracting young people to the industry.
"The students and tutors live and breathe dairy here - it's real-life training," he said.
Taratahi has been training in partnership with NorthTec in Northland since January last year.
Its programmes, such as National Certificate in Agriculture (Level 2), offer an introduction to farming skills, while the fulltime one-year National Certificate in Farming Skills Work Ready (Level 3) programme paves a career pathway for students.
Of the 10 National Certificate in Farming Skills Work Ready (Level 3) students who graduated last week, seven have found jobs, and with some of them enrolling for Taratahi's National Certificate in Agriculture (Level 4) programme next year they will be learning while earning.
About 2500 Taratahi students graduated nationwide this year.