Farmhand pilot programme welcomed

Rebecca O'Sullivan-Webb (17), of Dunedin, tries her hand at drenching sheep on an Otago Peninsula...
Rebecca O'Sullivan-Webb (17), of Dunedin, tries her hand at drenching sheep on an Otago Peninsula farm. Photo by Gregor Richardson.

Farming is the career path Emma Hollamby knows she wants to follow.

Ms Hollamby (25) was among the first intake of the pilot of the Farmhand training programme, launched in Dunedin last week.

The programme, which runs for 12 weeks, aims to expose the city's disengaged youth to rural work opportunities.

For Ms Hollamby, who had previously worked on dairy farms and loved the outdoors, it was an opportunity to broaden her horizons and ''get a feel for sheep''.

''It just seemed like a wide spectrum of stuff they were covering. I wanted experience, a wee bit more than I knew,'' she said.

Farmhand programme manager Annika Korsten was excited about the opportunity to link young people with career opportunities in Otago's rural sector.

The programme provided a sound base of work ethics, training in health and safety on farms, rural practical skills and animal handling and included a nine-week internship on a local farm.

Ms Korsten was the recipient of a $100,000 World of Difference grant from the Vodafone New Zealand Foundation to establish the programme on behalf of the Malcam Charitable Trust.

She was excited to see the programme under way and was impressed a group dynamic was already happening, with the young people involved showing ''great teamwork''.

Everyone had a particular interest, whether it was sheep and beef farming, dairying or horticulture.

The programme provided spaces for eight participants in the initial pilot while a second intake was planned for early February.

Otago Peninsula farmer Brendon Cross was showing the group various aspects of sheep farming during an initial induction period.

He applauded any initiative that got young people into agriculture.

It was preferable to have an employee who was able to ''hit the ground running a little bit'' on the farm, rather than someone who was naive and green, he said.

Mr Cross, who grew up on the farm, went through both Telford and Lincoln University. If the Farmhand programme was a stepping stone to further training in agriculture, he was happy to support it.

A regional initiative to better connect young people withjobs in the primary sector in Southland has received a $100,000 boost to kick-start a three-yearwork programme.

The Venture Southland joint committee approved the funding to go towards a seed fund to implement the Southland Futures project during the next three years.

Funding was also being sought from community, government and industry funding bodies.

Initiatives included. -

• Employing a field worker to match individuals to work and training opportunities and support the placement of young people in primary sector careers.

• Establishment and administration of an employers' network.

• Training and mentoring for employers.

• Establishment of an ''employer excellence'' standard and promotional materials.

• On-farm training/experience programmes.

• Working with schools to enhance the curriculum and careers-orientated projects.

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