The Waikato played host to Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor on Tuesday when he welcomed the first cohort of students for the DairyNZ's GoDairy campaign to provide quick training to fill over 1000 jobs across dairy farms in New Zealand.
More than 300 people have expressed interest in doing the Go Dairy farm ready training so far and DairyNZ wants people who have lost jobs due to Covid-19 to know there is plenty of work on the dairy farms, especially in Waikato, Canterbury, Otago and Southland – and that they might well earn more than in their previous role.
Entry positions average $48,000 per annum, rising to $60,000-$62,000 for herd and assistant manager positions, and $78,000 for farm managers.
With the national unemployment rate forecast to rise sharply due to Covid-19, DairyNZ is encouraging people to consider work on dairy farms in a new GoDairy campaign that also includes entry-level training to help their transition to farming.
"Immediately, there are 1000 jobs up for grabs on dairy farms," says DairyNZ's chief executive Dr Tim Mackle.
"As the new season gets under way, even more positions are likely to become available," says Dr Mackle.
"For people who're looking for work and like the idea of caring for animals and the environment, there are lots of jobs – and career progression opportunities."
"It's a wonderful lifestyle," says Waikato dairy farmer Thomas Orlowski.
While the GoDairy career changers campaign, which is supported by Federated Farmers, aims to create awareness of the job opportunities, there is a big emphasis on ensuring new staff understand what is involved in farm life.
"We want a win-win situation for new dairy farming employees to be happy and fulfilled in their new lifestyle and jobs, and for farm employers to have great talent working for them," Dr Mackle says.
He adds that dairy also pays one of the highest average wages of all the primary sectors.
"For the most part, we're anticipating interested people will be from the regions where there are big job losses in tourism and hospitality – and where there is dairying close by.
"An example is the dairy heartland of Waikato, which is also home to the Hobbiton and Waitomo Caves attractions, and the neighbouring Rotorua area, where there have been job losses, both direct and in the local support businesses."
Other dairy farming regions where there have been significant job losses include the South Island, in particular in Canterbury, Otago and Southland.
Dr Mackle says while new entrants to dairy farming would start off in the more junior roles, they can anticipate a rewarding career pathway.
"Even though they are new to farming, many people already have skills that are readily transferable and valued on dairy farms," he says.
"This is because dairy farming these days is quite diverse and there are many roles, from doing the farm books, to working with machinery, working with animals, and managing staff, and making full use of technology along the way.
"Skills from previous work – and a determination to give their best – will see people new to farming quickly progress from a farm assistant position to herd manager and then other management roles, and even ownership later on."