Christchurch student Cameron Brewitt has traded a holiday sleep-in to experience milking a dairy cow for the first time.
The 17-year-old was one of 27 students who visited Lincoln University's dairy farm last week as part of the Rabobank FoodX programme.
"It was an amazing experience. We got to stand next to the cows and put the milking clusters onto their teats," said Brewitt.
"We had to wake up quite early, but I really enjoyed it and thought it could be an interesting summer job while I'm at university."
Rabobank FoodX was a four-day programme designed to promote careers in the primary industries to urban students in Canterbury.
It saw students from 13 high schools visit a range of agri-businesses, including Synlait, Hellers, Galdfield Malt, Mt Peel Station and Rakaia Island, which milks 9,000 dairy cows.
"Prior to the programme, I wasn't really interested in agriculture or studying it at university. But I'll now be giving it strong consideration," said Brewitt.
"Rabobank FoodX has been such an eye-opening experience. We got to see all of the different jobs available in the agri-food sector and many of them pay well."
The programme is a joint initiative between Rabobank, Lincoln University and NZ Young Farmers (NZYF).
"By 2025 the primary industries will need an extra 50,000 skilled workers," said NZYF's David Highsted, who signed students up for the programme.
"This initiative is another way to try to connect with urban students and encourage them to consider the range of exciting agri-related careers on offer."
For 16-year-old Cashmere High School student Anna Yates, it was also her first time in a milking shed.
"I got such a surprise. I have to admit I didn't realise high-tech machines are used to milk cows, I genuinely thought they were still milked by hand," she said.
"It was very different to what I was expecting and just goes to show how little I knew about agriculture."
Listen to Jamie Mackay interview Anna Yates about the Rabobank FoodX programme below:
Taking part in Rabobank FoodX has convinced Yates about the strong job prospects in the agri-food sector.
"This is confirmed I want to study a Bachelor of Agribusiness and Food Marketing at Lincoln University. I'd like to get into rural banking or advisory work," she said.
It is possible Yates could end up studying with Cameron Brewitt.
Brewitt is the head boy at St Thomas of Canterbury College. The school doesn't offer mainstream classes in agriculture or horticulture.
"I really enjoy business and economics. I've been considering studying a commerce degree next year," he said.
"But I met a number of people at Rabobank FoodX who have done agri-commerce degrees, which gives them an edge."
"One was a Lincoln University graduate who works for dairy processor Synlait. It was great to pick his brains about my options," he said.
Brewitt is now planning on attending the open day at Lincoln University in July.
"All of these students are going to be walking billboards for the primary industries after this experience. It's a great way to help the agri-sector connect with their classmates and teachers," said David Highsted.
The students were from Catholic Cathedral College, Villa Maria College, Cashmere High School, Papanui High School, Marian College, Hornby High School, Burnside High School, Haeata Community College, Christchurch Girls' High School, St Thomas of Canterbury College, Rangi Ruru Girls' School, Hagley Community College and Christ's College.
FoodX was funded by Rabobank and facilitated by Lincoln University.