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It’s the first intake of its kind — funded and run — by the Mid Canterbury-based agricultural training provider and is designed to fast-track people into rural jobs with practical farm-work lessons to help fill some of the hundreds of rural vacancies across the industry.
And there is already a list of people applying for the next course.
Project manager Trina Moore said all the course trainees had one thing in common — transferable skills — which saw them selected out of the more than 650 applicants to the course.
Among them a former police officer, hospitality staff, a painter in the construction industry, a cafe owner and a hairdresser. Most had lost their jobs as a result of Covid-19, many were looking for a complete career change and all were keen to get enough farm experience to get their foot in the door of the rural industry.
"We have local businesses desperately needing staff and a programme that has attracted trainees from various backgrounds and with ages up to 60 years old," she said.
"We have a seismic oil vessel captain, a hairdresser, ex-police officer and cafe owner, and these people are not just local Cantabrians, they come from as far north as Auckland and as far south as Invercargill."
Agri Training ran a free introductory online taster course which drew in the huge response but through interviews and selection it was whittled down to 27.
"Our ultimate outcome is to place every person who has completed the training in work. We are 110% behind finding job opportunities for our graduates," she said.
It included setting up interviews with businesses to working with recruitment specialists Agstaff and New Zealand Dairy Careers.
Hannah Bennett (25), of Christchurch, is a painter working part-time in the construction industry but was keen to swap city life for full-time work with a rural outlook.
It had been a lifelong dream to work on a farm, especially a sheep farm, she said.
She had started working as a painter straight from school and said there had been a real barrier to gaining employment on a farm with no experience behind her.
The course had proved an eye-opener and given her some great insights — with practical skills — to use in the industry. She was hopeful of a job offer at the end of the course.
Fellow trainee Nathan Eggleton saw new avenues of employment opening up with more to the course than he initially thought.
"There’s so many more layers to this than I anticipated, new avenues that I can build on with my current skills. It’s not just for jobs on farm, I can look at something like sales through seed and crop. It’s like Covid shut one door and opened another,” he said.
Ms Moore said all of the candidates were seeking employment and had found their way to the training provider.
"We’d ideally like to be able to work with the Ministry of Social Development to get more people in training and more people out into work," she said, as the farming industry may be even more reliant on locally retrained people as changes to the current immigration system, based on skill-band, will see an increase to the wage bills of farmers employing migrant workers.
"We already have five trainees offered employment with multiple others invited for interviews," she said.