Wednesday, December 6, 2023

FoodX students learn the appeal of agri-careers

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Rabobank programme exposes 20 high-schoolers to many and varied sectoral pathways.
Lily Saunders, left, with fellow students at Beaumaris Dairies, says her experiences at FoodX completely changed her perception of the industry.
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As part of the Rabobank FoodX programme, 20 high school students have recently spent four days learning about career pathways in the food production supply chain. 

The all-expense-paid educational camp – held last week for the first time since the inaugural programme in 2019 – was attended by students from 11 high schools across the Canterbury, Otago and West Coast regions. 

The programme took in visits to a range of agribusiness operations in the Canterbury region including sheep and beef, cropping and dairy farms, Food and Arable Research (FAR), Fonterra, Lincoln New World, Oakley’s Premium Fresh Vegetables and the New Zealand Merino company.

The idea for the programme was developed by the Rabobank Upper South Island Client Council, a group of Rabobank clients formed after they identified a need for more promotion of agri industry careers among secondary school students. 

The Rabobank FoodX programme took 20 high school students on a four-day educational trip around sector leaders. Here they visit Lincoln University.

Rabobank Upper South Island Client Council Chair Robin Oakley said attracting high calibre young people into agri careers is an on-going challenge for the sector.

“The Client Council identified improved promotion of agri careers as one of its key focus areas way back in 2012 when the group was first set up,” Oakley said.

“The first Rabobank FoodX received some fantastic feedback from attendees, and it was great to get the programme back up and running this year after an extended break due to covid.”

Programme participant Lily Saunders, a Year 12 student from Christchurch Girls’ High School, said she went into the programme with very limited knowledge of the agricultural industry.

“I’m from Christchurch and I’m very much a townie,” she said. “My aunty and uncle from Palmerston North do own a farm, but I don’t really know much about it and, if I’m honest, I went into the programme with a bit of a negative perception of the industry due to some of the stories I’d seen in the media.”

Lily said her experiences at FoodX had completely changed her perception of the industry, and she is now seriously considering a career in the sector.

“I was surprised by just how big the sector is and really impressed by all the things farmers and others working in the industry are doing to create a more sustainable food production system,” she said.

“I also thought it was really cool looking inside some of the big agribusiness operations like Fonterra and NZ Merino Company and seeing how they use some pretty sophisticated automation to do different jobs.”

Lily said that although she initially had plans to study environmental science once she finished up at school, she is now thinking she would like to study a more agricultural-focused course. 

“We heard from a bunch of people across the week who all had different roles, and a lot of them talked about how they spend time in their job out on farm getting their hands dirty, as well as time in the office,” she said.

“And this mix of different tasks within the one role is something that really appeals to me.”

Lincoln University domestic liaison team leader Lucy Grubb joined the students on the four-day programme and said many of the students were, like Lily, surprised by the range of jobs connected to the sector.

“Coming into the programme, a lot of the students associated roles in the agribusiness sector with on-farm positions, but they didn’t necessarily have a good grasp of all the other positions that are linked into the sector,” she said.

“So it was a bit of an eye-opener for some of them to learn about all the potential career paths connected to the sector in areas like marketing, research and development and logistics.”

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