More mature feel to Telford students

Vinni Bhula, of Whangarei, is studying at Telford, near Balclutha, and is one of the facility's seven 'mature students'. He used to work in viticulture but now is keen to learn more about dairying. Photo by Yvonne O'Hara
Vinni Bhula, of Whangarei, is studying at Telford, near Balclutha, and is one of the facility's seven 'mature students'. He used to work in viticulture but now is keen to learn more about dairying. Photo by Yvonne O'Hara
At 25 and 26, Vinni Bhula and Nina Simonsen are helping change the demographic of Telford, near Balclutha.

Most of Telford's 126 students come straight from school and range in age from 16 to 19 but ''mature students'' Ms Simonsen, of Marlborough, and Mr Bhula, of Whangarei, have come to retrain to follow their interest in farming.

Ms Simonsen is Telford's oldest student for the year and was a qualified cabinet maker and kitchen interior designer before she spent 12 months on a dairy farm.

She wanted to continue farming in the area but there were not a lot of jobs available as potential employers required more experience and qualifications.

''I always had a passion to go farming,'' Ms Simonsen said.

''It is not who you know but what you know and you need that piece of paper.''

She chose to move south to attend Telford to study for her certificate in agriculture, level 3, this year.

''Next year I would like to work in the high country and get into wool buying, so would like to be able to pick up some extra papers to get me into it.''

While she enjoys the classroom learning - the fertiliser and soil studies are ''brilliant'' - and work experience, she said there was ''the shock of having no income''.

She flats in Balclutha and has a student allowance and savings, and buys meal cards for the on-campus cafeteria.

''When I was working, I was pretty shocking at not budgeting, so I needed to learn,''She intends to return to work once she has earned her qualifications at the end of the year.

Mr Bhula is working towards a level three certificate in dairying.

He completed a diploma in viticulture after leaving school, then worked on a vineyard for three years as cellarhand and foreman. He also managed the family farm, which grew maize under contract before they decided to diversify into dairying.

''It felt a bit of a shock, coming from being in my own business and working to being a student, but I have settled in now and really enjoy it.''

He lives in the campus hostel on savings. Telford has three mature students from Papua New Guinea.

The school's apiculture course, run in Kaitaia, Northland, has 18 students ranging in age from 18 to 62.

Of the 18, 12 are classed as adult students.

- by Yvonne O'Hara 

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