“The government has set an ambitious target of doubling our primary sector exports by 2025. To get there we will need investment, innovation, market development and a skilled workforce. The government estimates the sector will need to employ another 50,000 people by 2025, half of them requiring tertiary or level 4 qualifications” (Source: Honourable Nathan Guy: Minister for Primary Industries).

The agribusiness sector in New Zealand has major skill shortages across the value chain now, let alone in the future. “The forecast findings show that across the primary industries there will be a growing demand for professional skills such as engineering, science, and management. The workforce of the future may look very different. In many cases jobs will be more specialised and will require people with strong educational backgrounds … and an increasing demand for more people in occupations with higher qualifications, especially for professional degrees in field of specialisation aligned with the value chain” (Source: Ministry for Primary Industries – People Powered).

“DairyNZ estimate an annual need of 1,000 agriculture-related graduates to keep the industry healthy and growing” (Source: Mark Paine: DairyNZ Strategy and Investment Leader).

Waikato Milking Systems is one of a number of business partners that have helped develop the Agribusiness in Schools Agribusiness initiative as the then CEO, Dean Bell, was concerned New Zealand will not be able to fully utilise the increased opportunities for trade, productivity and competitiveness if the country doesn’t have highly skilled future leaders for its biggest export earner. “We need to provide our best and brightest students with a high-academic focus agribusiness curriculum which will enable them to be those future leaders”.

“The economy is shifting from commodity, low value items to innovative, specialised high value technologies which will be in demand around the world and which will fuel the country’s export earnings. If we’re to maintain or grow our place in the global marketplace we need to think differently about the way we view careers in primary industries, and reflect this at an early stage in the education of our young people”.

“For too long agricultural subjects and courses have tended to be vocational and haven’t been pitched to attract young people across a wide spectrum of skills – commerce, science, engineering, technology, IT to name a few, denying young people a wide choice of careers in an industry which has limitless potential.”

Public perception is that agricultural and horticultural courses are for less able students. School and community perceptions of the importance of agribusiness to New Zealand need improving, and the opportunities and pathways that are available are not recognised or well known. In particular there is a need to engage the urban sector with the primary sector which politically is so very important for New Zealand’s future. In addition there is an urgent need for initiatives that provide a better link between secondary schools, tertiary institutions and the agribusiness sector.

There is currently no senior New Zealand secondary school course that looks to interest and engage academic, tertiary capable students into careers in the agribusiness sector beyond the farm gate.

Agribusiness in Schools, with considerable agribusiness sector support, has for last six years, been working to develop and deliver an achievement standards based agribusiness programme to secondary schools in New Zealand that meets the sector’s long term needs to develop highly skilled and motivated young people, required for a sustainable future of the primary sector.

Agribusiness in School’s initiative to develop a new achievement standards based Agribusiness programme at NCEA Levels 2 and 3 has been taken up by the Ministry of Education and NZQA, and a fully resourced Agribusiness teaching and learning programme is available to all New Zealand secondary schools.