Since the opening of the Gallagher Agribusiness Centre of Excellence building in early 2016 and commencement of the agribusiness programme being taught at level 2 and 3 at St Paul’s for the last three years, momentum continues to develop this teaching and learning programme and make it freely accessible to all NZ schools.
Alarming figures by DairyNZ in 2013 showed a growing skills shortage in the agribusiness sector with research showing the industry needed 1250 tertiary qualified workers entering the sector each year.
And with less than 200 students graduating from university agribusiness-related courses in 2013 some initiative was needed at high school level to provide a platform for students to learn the facets of agribusiness and channel them to related university courses if they chose to make it their career.
Through a private–public partnership with DairyNZ and Beef + Lamb New Zealand, Gallagher, BNZ, Zoetis, NZ National Fieldays Society, AGMARDT, Greenlea Premier Meats, Waikato Milking Systems, AGrowQuip, Waitomo Petroleum, Campbell Tyson and TetraPak, more than $2m was raised to develop a curriculum, create resources and trial agribusiness at a secondary school level, firstly at St Paul’s and then with nine other NZ secondary schools.
Over Easter weekend, St Paul’s hosted a conference attended by more than 160 delegates from 56 secondary schools throughout the country who are interested in teaching the programme in 2018.
Hon Simon Bridges, Minister for Economic Development opened the conference and set the scene for what was to follow – that agribusinesses will remain a central core of New Zealand’s economic future and there is an urgent need to attract bright, tertiary capable young men and women into the sector over the next few years to meet our export targets, increase the value of our products and to gain better public understanding of both the challenges and importance of the sector.
Keynote speakers Ian Proudfoot, Dr Brendan Haigh and Dame Alison Paterson gave their own specialist insights, and plenary sessions and workshops saw plenty of roundtable discussion among conference delegates.
Other guest speakers and staff provided conference attendees with tips and tricks, resources and support for getting the programme established in their schools.
Response to the conference, and the programme, was overwhelmingly positive and bodes well for the future of agribusiness in New Zealand schools.
For Peter Hampton, Director of Agribusiness at St Paul’s, the nationwide rollout of the agribusiness curriculum in 2018 will be the next phase in what has been an exciting journey.
“By introducing academically rigorous agribusiness courses to secondary school students, more of New Zealand’s brightest young minds will become inspired by the opportunities available in the sector and realise that career prospects go beyond the farm gate.
“They can become food scientists, marketers, business professionals, economists, technicians or the CEO of one of New Zealand’s major agribusiness companies – the possibilities are endless.”
GARRICK LAING (CLARK 1983–87)