Thursday, December 7, 2023

Scheme aims to boost dairy apprenticeships

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Dairy farmers now have financial incentive to take on an apprentice.
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Under the Apprenticeship Boost scheme, which began this month and is due to run until the end of next year, dairy farmers who take on an apprentice will be eligible for $1000 a month for the first year of an apprenticeship and $500 a month during the second year.

To be eligible, apprentices must be part of a Tertiary Education Commission-approved New Zealand apprenticeship or managed apprenticeship programme and have done less than two years of their training.

Employers can apply for the Apprenticeship Boost whether an apprentice has just started their training programme, or right up until near the end of their first two years.

It’s focused on the first two years of an apprenticeship because the Government believes that is when apprentices are at highest risk of being laid off – and during the post-covid economic recovery it wants to help businesses keep apprentices in jobs.

The scheme is administered by Work and Income, which pays the money directly to farmers monthly in advance.

Federated Farmers employment spokesman Chris Lewis says up until now there has not been any carrot put in front of dairy farmers thinking about taking on an apprentice.

The federation and Primary ITO launched a joint dairy apprenticeship scheme in 2017 and Lewis says while that has helped increase the number of farmers willing to take on an apprentice the money now being made available to farmers will hopefully encourage more of them to take on an apprentice.

He says the industry needs to attract, retain and develop new people and apprenticeships are a good way to help achieve that.

Primary ITO chief executive Nigel Philpott says the boost scheme recognises that farmers who take on an apprentice are investing their time and knowledge in that person.

He says farmers can be assured that potential apprentices are vetted and need to show that they are committed to furthering themselves.

The boost scheme complements the free trades training package that was introduced at the beginning of July.

Philpott says the free trades training pays the fees associated with the vast majority of Primary ITO programmes and the costs are covered by the Government up front.

That means farmers and apprentices will not need to worry about paying the cost of any formal training that is part of their apprenticeship.

It’s not just dairy training, as the package encompasses training across agriculture, horticulture, other primary services and everything in between, including landscaping, sports turf and beekeeping.

He says more than ever before training organisations, the Ministry for Primary Industries, levy bodies, Federated Farmers and Young Farmers are working together rather than competing against each other.

“It’s all about the learner and the employer.”

To apply for the apprenticeship boost go to the Ministry of Social Development’s Work and Income website, while for information on free trade training go to the Primary ITO website.

Hub to support farm employees

A new rural employee support hub aims to provide information and help to farm employees so they have the best possible experiences and careers on-farm.

The hub, based around a website and free 0800 phone line, is a DairyNZ and Ministry for Primary Industries initiative, delivered by Federated Farmers and supported by Dairy Women’s Network and New Zealand Young Farmers.

DairyNZ people team leader Jane Muir says dairying is a sector that’s built on people and the hub aims to help everyone involved to have a rewarding long-term career.

The website contains information on careers, training and development, remuneration and tenancies.

There are sections on personal health including keeping active, nutrition and mental health support.

On a practical level, there’s help on animals, farm health and safety. There’s also access to legal support if needed.

“As a sector, we are really focused on ensuring employees enjoy and are fulfilled in their jobs, and that farm bosses have great talent working for them,” Muir said. 

“It’s a two-way relationship.”

“Employers are well-supported through DairyNZ and Federated Farmers, and we want to ensure employees have the same level of support and know where to go to ask questions.”

The initiative is a six-month pilot to understand the demand. If well used, the aim is for it to become permanent.

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