Te Pukenga updates orchardist training

Te Pukenga has tweaked its training for aspiring orchardists and fruit growers as it looks to impart greater on-the-ground knowledge to apprentices.

It also wants to get more knowledge into younger fruit growers as orchard managers are ageing and need to be replaced.

The tertiary institution has updated the New Zealand certificate in fruit production level 3, which offers on-the-job training with options designed to mean people can get the training best suited to their region and business.

In Central Otago, new learners will learn on the job, across the region’s most widely planted crops such as summer fruit, apples and nuts, at 41 orchards and other growers.

Primary ITO sector manager for horticulture production Hamish Gordon said the new programme made it easier to focus on the particular skills needed for the region and business.

"For example, where frost protection is very important in the South Island, it’s much less the focus in the Far North," he said.

While there were new training options for things such as pruning younger or mature trees, frost protection and how to interpret weather maps, the key principles set people up for a career in fruit production, he said.

"It’s very broad and does fit into a lot of systems, whether that’s blueberries, kiwifruit on vines, or tree fruit."

The industry needed to focus on upskilling people as it could not rely on being able to employ people already fully skilled, Mr Gordon said.

"It’s an ageing industry, with managers and directors in their 60s, and we need more skilled people coming through to fill those managerial positions. Even when people are trained, they’re not necessarily choosing to step up into management so investing in training is critical."

The new level 3 certificate was available now and a new level 4 certificate was launched earlier this year. They can be combined into a New Zealand Apprenticeship.

"It’s the level 4 where people will learn management skills," Mr Gordon said.

"It involves a lot of critical thinking about why you do things within a production system, as well as how to supervise and talk to your team."

— Staff reporter



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