Saturday, December 2, 2023

Career pathway for aspiring sheep and beef farmers

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Becoming a sheep and beef farmer of the future has been made easier with Growing Future Farmers (GFF) opening a clear career pathway.
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Becoming a sheep and beef farmer of the future has been made easier with Growing Future Farmers (GFF) opening a clear career pathway.

Providing a structured pathway for young people to learn farming is a key focus for Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ) in its support of GFF.

Now into its second year, the GFF programme has more than 90 graduates enrolled and almost as many farmers involved.

B+LNZ general manager for South Island John Ladley said the organisation recognises the importance of providing good pathways for young people to enter the industry.

“We know investment in people and capability on-farm is key to success,” Ladley said.

GFF’s aim is to accelerate a career pathway from an entry level essential farm skills programme to advance farm skills and business management.

“For young people, and for those also making a change of career, having really good pathways to come through, acquire and develop skills and progress is critically important and Beef + Lamb has an important role to play to ensure the necessary training and support is out there,” he said.

“The GFF programme is certainly proving its need.”

GFF has 31 second-year participants and 60 first year students enrolled in the programme for the 2022 intake, cementing itself as the largest training organisation of its type in the country.

GFF combines a range of specialised industry training and development with formal NZQA learning that includes classroom lectures, independent study, and group sessions.

The two-year programme takes in 46 weeks from mid-January to mid-December each year with placements in 10 regions right throughout the country.

“Farmers have spoken highly about the quality of the GFF programme and we are pleased to see the programme grow substantially in numbers.

“Farmers see the value in it to attract people into farming and knowing they have the support for the on-the-job learning inter-linked with off-farm learning is really critical to connect the dots and build on continuous learning,” Ladley said.

“From a beef and lamb perspective it’s ensuring a really robust development opportunity where people can see a clear pathway from entry level through to stock manager levels.

“As an organisation we don’t have the ability to fund everything, but we use partnerships and link our resources in a framework right through to NZQA levels that validates the learning programme.”

GFF operates as a separate entity and is responsible for recruiting the trainees, with involvement also in managing the overall programme.

Key to the overall success of the programme is having farmers with the right mindset prepared to engage, invest and commit.

“We create the right environment and the opportunity to learn and grow develops between the trainee and the farmer,” he said.

The ongoing challenge now is how to grow the programme and to get more farmers involved to develop more opportunity.

“We have fine-tuning work to do, but the feedback is that we are hitting the right spot,” he said.

Structured programmes offer an array of specialised industry training and development and formal NZQA qualifications taking in both on and off-farm learning.

The extensive practical work experience is alongside experienced and motivated farmers who have signalled their intent by taking on students to grow the industry.

Farm trainers provide accommodation and supply two dogs in year one, one a heading pup in February followed by a Huntaway in August, with training of the pups a key part of the programme and funded by GFF.

Farm trainers are required to show a desire to educate and train their students, be patient and encouraging, with a willingness to upskill their own attributes.

Students live and train on-farm as part of the farm team during the duration of the course, with regional liaison managers working with both the farmers and students to support the training.

Typically, students are on course one day a week and on-farm four days a week.

For more information about open days, applications and becoming a farm trainer, go to

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