Agriculture education in demand

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Local schools are answering the primary sector’s call for more young people to consider it as a career prospect.
Agriculture is rapidly growing in popularity at Waitaki Boys’ High School, which has its own 16ha Fraser Farm. Teacher Elizabeth Prentice said there were three classes of year 10 pupils, the year 11 class was so big it was being split into academic and vocational streams, and there were two year 12 classes. One included a group of year 13 pupils.
Miss Prentice attributed a lot of the interest to Fraser Farm. It is run as a commercial sheep and beef operation by a committee of local farmers and industry leaders, with former pupils mentoring today’s.
About half the agriculture pupils are from rural backgrounds, she said.
“We can actually let them make mistakes, and it doesn’t have huge repercussions.”Last year Fraser Farm hosted a skills days for pupils from other secondary schools.
St Kevin’s College offers NCEA Levels 1, 2 and 3 for those wanting an academic pathway to university, teacher Paula Eatherley said.
A Primary Industries Trades Academy gave pupils practical opportunities for vocations in agriculture or horticulture.
“Waitaki Girls’ and Waimate High students join us on this `V Path’ course.
“This year we will be also be collaborating with the Waitaki Community Gardens and local producers to offer a horticulture Level 2 course on Fridays.”Year 12 and 13 pupils could be placed on farms for Gateway work experience.
“Our Teen Ag club is growing and we are well supported by Young Farmers, our farming parents and the wider farming community who volunteer their expertise and time to offer students `hands on’ activities and field trips,” Mrs Eatherley said.
St Kevin’s hoped to repeat last year’s successful careers forum organised by Lincoln University.
Agriculture has been selected by many year 11 pupils at Waimate High School this year, teacher Stuart Albrey said.
“We had good numbers last year. Obviously, because of the nature of the subject, numbers drop off a wee bit through Levels 2 and 3. Some might go off on to farms. Others go on to Lincoln.”Mr Albrey added agriculture to his health and physical education portfolio four years ago. He was the logical choice because he runs a 125ha farm near Waimate, he said.
He keeps in close contact with former Christchurch Boys’ High School principal Trevor McIntyre, who now works in the Ministry of Education on avenues for primary industry careers.
An increasing number of Waitaki Girls’ High School pupils are heading to Lincoln for tertiary studies, careers adviser Viv Hay said.
“Once they get to Lincoln, the options are huge. There are so many pathways now. It’s a matter of opening doors.”The primary sector could employ not just farmers, but also scientists, economists, and people with many other areas of expertise, Mrs Hay said.

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