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Tasting the Life of a Modern Farmer

By UCOL on Monday, 29 November 2021

Students and the lecturer at a farm

It’s crucial for farmers to keep up with the changing times – and UCOL’s new Farming Systems and Equipment (Level 3) programme aims to help newcomers do just that. 

Going beyond traditional textbook learning methods, the programme will be delivered on a working, certified, and diversified farm in Wairarapa, complete with the latest equipment. “This is what makes our programme unique,” says Bob Stewart, Portfolio Manager – Trades, Conservation & Primary Industries, UCOL. “We’ve used all the resources and technology that we can on our ‘training farm’ in Wairarapa to give our learners real-life, hands-on skills that are absolutely in demand.” The polytechnic is currently in the process of finalising a training farm for Palmerston North, to support learners across the wider Manawatū, Whanganui, and Horowhenua regions. 

UCOL began offering a variety of agriculture pathways last year, following high demand from local stakeholders and employers. Across New Zealand, it is estimated that the industry will need another 50,000 skilled workers by 2025 to meet the growing needs of our nation. “The idea is simple, we focus on increasing our learners’ skills and knowledge by enabling them to do the work on a farm themselves,” Bob continues.

No two days of learning are the same. To be prepared for a life on the farm, graduates need to be able to tackle the day-to-day management of pastures, handle livestock, manage milk harvesting, understand the latest farm technology tools, and the classic machinery, like good old tractors. “The learning journey can be life-changing for many. There’s definitely hard work involved but once you get through it, you’d be surprised by how quickly you move up the ladder in this field,” adds Bob.

The Farming Systems and Equipment programme, along with a number of others, is covered under the Government’s Targeted Training and Apprenticeship Fund (TTAF), meaning learners can take part for free. It’s an effort to ensure there are no barriers for this booming industry, but 2022 is the last year it will be available. 

This programme is open to all, even if they don’t have prior knowledge or experience in the field. Over the last few years UCOL has seen everyone from office workers to ex-pilots take up a new career in agriculture, with many learners being immediately offered jobs by local agribusinesses. 

Those already in farming and wanting to sharpen their skillset can enrol in the New Zealand Certificate in Agriculture (Level 4) programme, and learn while they keep earning. UCOL also offers the New Zealand Diploma in Primary Industry Business Management (Level 5), which helps learners prepare for a management or supervisor level role in the industry, be it farming, horticulture, fishing or apiculture. 

Intakes for these programmes will kick off in February 2022. Those wanting to find out more information can get in touch at 0800 GO UCOL (0800 468 265).