Chance to change fields


People who suffered job losses following the Covid-19 outbreak are being offered a second chance at a tertiary institution in Clutha.

A six-week programme at the Southern Institute of Technology’s (SIT) Telford campus has been putting agricultural novices through their paces in an effort to reskill and enter a new field.

Agricultural contractor training course participant Hayley Wyndham had been on› site at Telford for just over a week, with food and accommodation paid for.

“I’ve never worked in this industry before . . .it’s going to open so many doors,” Miss Wyndham said.

For most of her career she had been a bus driver, but the change of field did not faze her.

“In Queenstown there are lots of dairy farm jobs.”
Course tutor David Toole said the free course was intended to give the newly unemployed “a second chance’’.

“It’s not their fault they’ve lost their jobs,” Mr Toole said.

“And they’ve done the best thing they can do, which is turn up. It’s awesome . . . they’re learning really quickly.”

Telford programme manager Debbie Rankin said about 60 students had taken part in the course so far and were ‘‘adapting well’’.

“We’ve got amazing people coming through,’’ Ms Rankin said.

‘‘Many have come from very different backgrounds and this is a big change for them.”

The education had a double benefit, with new skills for the trainees, and a pool of potential new rural agricultural employees.

“We couldn’t bring in experienced drivers from overseas . . .so rural contractors and Telford came together to deliver the course,” she said.

Agricentre South provided up-to-date equipment for the trainees to use, including three tractors.

The six weeks were split into three blocks of two weeks, with the first spent at Telford.

“We go over health and safety, initial tractor driving skills, pre-start checks and those sorts of things.”

Then it was on to Invercargill, for driver training with the HW Richardson Group.

“While they’re there they cover things like tractor-driving, forklifts and defensive driving.”

A work placement came next, with the possibility of a job offer at the end of it.

A new cohort was brought on to the course every two weeks, and it was planned a total of seven groups would make it through over the next few weeks.