Several hundred Kiwi pilots, either on furlough or who have been made redundant in the wake of Covid-19, could help meet the urgent skills shortage in the agriculture sector.
The New Zealand Air Line Pilots' Association (NZALPA), along with the Ministry for Primary Industries and the Rural Contractors' Association, had been working for several months with other government departments and training providers to match pilot expertise with the immediate needs of the agricultural sector.
"By matching skills and the New Zealand Transport Agency licences pilots already hold, we've found almost 200 opportunities for pilots to put their skills to use with land-based machinery and do their bit for New Zealand's essential agriculture economy," NZALPA Medical and Welfare Director, Andy Pender said.
The NZALPA had taken surveys of its members to identify transferable skills that, with some extra training, could result in pilots helping to fill some of the gaps many growers and exporters now face.
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After seeing these surveys, Rural Contractors Association chief executive Roger Parton alerted his national membership.
"Those pilot surveys indicated a significant number who, in addition to considerable flying expertise and qualifications, also held land transport licences class 2 or higher, with specific NZTA category endorsements, and also had previous agricultural large machinery operating and farming experience," Parton said.
The cooperation NZALPA found through working across government and directly with operators had been extraordinary, and the training opportunities and willingness to work together was inspiring, Pender,
Meanwhile Pender, a former captain for Virgin Australia (NZ), said the cooperation NZALPA experienced working across government and directly with operators was extraordinary.
The training opportunities and willingness to work together was inspiring, Pender said,
"It also demonstrates the way New Zealanders take a practical approach in time of crisis."
"As an industry and workforce, we, our families and crew mates endured an incredible and brutal shock, but we're determined to apply our training to where it is needed, pick up additional skills and make the most of new opportunities."