New Zealand Kiwifruit Growers Inc (NZKGI) and Katikati College have joined forces to launch an innovative pilot programme aimed at supporting the region's growth by connecting businesses and secondary schools.

The ME Programme integrates kiwifruit and avocado industry content and resources into mainstream subjects such as English, statistics, biology, and environmental studies in Years 12 and 13.

ME is an acronym for a range of phrases relating to students' transition from school, including my employability, my education and my earning potential, said NZKGI business manager Kate Longman.

Although NZKGI was driving the pilot programme, the organisation has strong support from other sectors of the horticulture industry such as the avocado, vegetable, apple and pear groups and the Fruit Growers Charitable Trust, she said.


And the programme could be used by other local industries to engage with secondary schools to provide relevant training pathways into their business.

"The ME Programme is a framework, which can be used by secondary schools and local industry to engage in developing course content that enables students to gain real world skills to enhance their transition into further training and employment."

Katikati College principal Neil Harray said the school wanted to broaden students' exposure to roles available in the horticulture industry.

With the industry's expertise, they have developed resources to be taught by teachers in the classroom that are interesting and industry relevant, he said.

"Students are unaware of the various roles in the $7 billion horticulture industry, particularly the specialist roles that are often difficult to fill locally. This programme will expose them to our largest local industry employer and to New Zealand's fourth largest export-earner."

The ME Programme aligns with the Bay of Plenty's Tertiary Intentions Strategy, which is to ensure local labour needs are met through an educated and skilled workforce.

Priority One's strategy adviser, Greg Simmonds, said creating partnerships between local industry and the education sector was a key focus of the Tertiary Intentions Strategy and directly influenced the Bay of Plenty's regional growth plans around enhancing education and employment opportunities for young people, so they can be trained to fill local jobs.

The pilot programme will be evaluated at the end of the year, and if successful the partners will look to replicate it across other key industries and to roll it out to interested Bay of Plenty secondary schools.


Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology head of school applied science Dr Tim Lowe welcomed the ME Programme horticulture initiative.

"We work closely with our industry partners and our communities to ensure the training we are delivering supports what industry needs," he said.

"This also aligns with the support we provide to our local secondary schools to enable them to pass on the same high level of horticulture education to their students. It's a great initiative to have more training options in secondary schools and we would be delighted to work with the schools to help facilitate this."

Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology

- Horticulture enrolment: 487 students in a range of programmes, from entry level to orchard management qualifications.