New agribusiness subject to attract top students into farming

New agribusiness subject to attract top students into farming

21 October 2016

A new agribusiness secondary school subject is to be trialled at schools next year in a bid to attract "the brightest and best" to careers in the primary industries.

Initiated by St Paul’s Collegiate School in Hamilton, agribusiness will be included in the curriculums of 10 secondary schools in an NZQA trial, before becoming available to all secondary schools from 2018.

St Paul’s deputy headmaster Peter Hampton said agricultural and horticultural science numbers at senior secondary schools were in decline and these industries were not attracting the brightest and best people. Public perceptions were poor, with an assumption among young people that work in the agricultural sector was long hours, poorly paid, hard work, unsocial and boring.

"Currently there is no structured programme at senior secondary school to attract bright, tertiary-capable students into agribusiness careers," he said at a New Zealand Institute of Agricultural and Horticultural Science forum at Lincoln University.

By 2025, primary industries will need 50,000 more people. Upskilling would also be required with 92,600 more people needed with qualifications (up from 156,500 in 2012 to 249,100 in 2025). In the same period, workers with no post-school qualifications were expected to drop from 197,000 to 154,300. More skills were needed in farm systems, resource management, staff management, science and engineering, marketing and technical support.

Other schools offering the subject next year were: Mt Albert Grammar (Auckland), New Plymouth Boys' High School, Feilding High School, Lindisfarne College (Hawkes Bay), Christchurch Boys' High School, John McGlashan College and Columba College (Dunedin), as well as Southland Boys' High School and Southland Girls' High School (Invercargill). The subject was available in year 12 and in some schools also year 13.

The subject’s focus was mainly beyond the farm gate and into the primary industry sectors. It was targeted at students strong in sciences or commerce and would have a link to university agribusiness courses. Topics covered by agribusiness include innovation, enterprise, technology, how companies operate, value chain, marketing, and food, soil and plant science.

Hampton said there was strong interest from more than 40 secondary schools, as well as sector interest, in the initiative. The agribusiness subject went across several traditional subjects, encouraging teacher collaboration. "Often it is the first time teachers have worked beyond the ’silo' of their own subject." Students would gain achievement standards at NCEA levels 2 and 3.

For three years St Paul’s has been working to develop and deliver the achievement standards-based agribusiness programme, with considerable agribusiness sector support, This year it had 25 year 13 students on the course. It had not only attracted students from rural areas (boarders), as half were urban-based. A quarter of the class was girls.

"If by the end of 2018 we have 100 schools on board we will have 2500 agribusiness students. If we get half of secondary schools to take up the course we will have 5000 agribusiness students a year."

St Paul’s will host an agribusiness conference in April, aimed at secondary school principals, senior managers, board of trustee members and teachers of science, technology and commerce to learn more about the new subject.