Dissecting a fanworm may not be everyone's idea of a great day out, but it was a popular activity for secondary students taking part in two Find Your Future careers events.
About 80 students from eight schools — Ruawai College, Huanui College, Dargaville High, Kamo High, Tuararoa Area, Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Te Rawhiti Roa, and Whangarei Boys' and Girls' Highs — took part in the Whangarei event and a further 40 students from six schools — Te Kura Taumata O Panguru, Kaitaia Abundant Life, Northland College, Taipa Area, Kaitaia College and Kerikeri High — attended the Kerikeri event.
The events, a first for Northland, were aimed specifically at attracting young people into careers within Northland's professional primary industries.
They were organised by the Northland Regional Council and its Enviroschools team and the Whangarei A&P Society, with support from the Ministry of Primary Industries, NIWA, Plant and Food Research, Rabobank, Seeka and Tahi Honey NZ.
In addition to interactive workshops, the students could see professional primary industries in action with visits to NIWA or Tahi Honey in Whangarei, and Seeka or Plant and Food Research in Kerikeri.
"Northland's professional primary industries offer well-paid, diverse and rewarding career opportunities, yet often struggle to fill positions," regional council chairman Bill Shepherd told the students. "These events can open your eyes to new opportunities and may influence what you want to study when you leave school.
"You don't have to leave Northland for good to get a high paying career in the professional primary industries — you can do it right here."
Primary industries professionals shared their career pathways and engaged the students through practical experiences including soil analysis, sediment sampling, microscopic examination and identification, GIS mapping, rural banking farm purchase calculations and quizzes.
In one room, young people in white laboratory coats gathered around a table, trying their hand at fanworm dissection and quizzing marine biosecurity professionals.
In another, a lively quiz with thought provoking questions gave students a better understanding of the role and work of the Ministry for Primary Industries.
Laboratory technicians from the orchard-to-market company Seeka shared their career pathways and showed the students how to brix test for sweetness and identify plant pests through microscopic examination.
There was a chance to get dirty in the soil analysis sessions where students first dug soil samples for visual assessment and then tested them to determine soil health.
Knitting needles were used to gauge sediment accumulation in the marine environment with analysis showing how people have impacted negatively on this ecosystem.
Rabobank's farm purchasing exercise taught students calculations reinforcing that farming is big business. Rural bankers talked about how they came to be in the business and inspired students with their earning potential.
Bringing data to life by tracking the path of Cyclone Florence, the point where it touched down, where it went and what it did after that, was part of the GIS exercise which introduced students to the wealth of free open source data.
Whangarei Agricultural and Pastoral Society president Murray Jagger said about 33,000 jobs would be available in New Zealand's agrisector by 2025. "Take science courses, keep going and keep an eye on this sector. It's rich in opportunity and reward."