South Canterbury student Taylor Bird has spent three days honing his leadership skills at a unique course run by NZ Young Farmers.

The 16-year-old was one of 18 TeenAg members from across the South Island selected to attend the leadership programme last week.

"It was quite different to what I was expecting. It was awesome. I learned so much, it was a really rewarding experience," said Bird.

Students were taught how to set goals, communicate confidently, manage their time, network effectively and budget.

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The course called Raising the Standards took place at Blinc Innovation's offices at Lincoln University and was funded by DairyNZ.

Hamish Goatley (left) from Gore High School and Taylor Bird from Geraldine High School. Photo / Supplied
Hamish Goatley (left) from Gore High School and Taylor Bird from Geraldine High School. Photo / Supplied

It was designed to enhance the skills of emerging leaders within TeenAg clubs.

"The aim is to increase students' awareness of opportunities in the primary industries while helping to hone their leadership skills," said Mary Holmes from NZ Young Farmers.

"They learned about the wide range of agri-related scholarships on offer. There are more than 250 available and their value exceeds $3 million."

Guest speakers included an agri-business banker, former Ahuwhenua Young Māori Farmer Award finalist Cheyenne Wilson, FMG Young Farmer of the Year grand finalist Georgie Lindsay and the Canterbury-North Otago dairy trainee of the year Nicola Blowey.

"Cheyenne shared her tips on how to network effectively and talked about how it can lead to better job opportunities," said Bird.

"It was a really interesting session."

The Year 12 student lives on 750 cow dairy farm near Temuka and hopes to land a job as a shepherd when he finishes high school.

Bird chairs the TeenAg club at Geraldine High School, which with 60 members is the largest in the Aorangi region.

The group visited a small Canterbury sheep milking operation. Photo / Supplied
The group visited a small Canterbury sheep milking operation. Photo / Supplied

Fellow club members Robert Furrer, 15, and Nicole Wakefield-Hart, 16, also attended the leadership course.

Earlier this year Bird and his team mate Ben Chambers, 17, were runners up in the Aorangi FMG Junior Young Farmer of the Year competition.

The result means the pair qualified to compete in the grand final in Hawke's Bay in July.

"It's exciting, but also nerve-racking. We have a lot of study to do before then. It will be our first time competing at the event," he said.

Last week's leadership course was also attended by students from Kaikoura High School, St Bede's College, Southland Girls' High School, Gore High School, Ashburton College, Lincoln High School, Christchurch Girls' High School, Marlborough Girls' College, St Kevin's College, Mackenzie College and John McGlashan College.

The course is the second of three planned across New Zealand this year.

"As the course facilitator it was humbling to see students' confidence grow and for them to leave with new goals and a network of life-long friendships," said Holmes.

TeenAg clubs are a key part of the work being done by NZ Young Farmers to attract students into the agri-food sector.