A new programme designed to bring young people into the dairy industry has debuted in South Otago and could expand to the rest of the country.
“It started on the ground level in the community. It’s a pilot project. The idea is that we can see how this goes and work out any kinks,” Dairy NZ senior consulting officer Guy Michaels said about the initiative, which first sprang from a conversation between The Catlins Area School principal Kate Staniford and Owaka Valley farmer Cody Hartvigsen.
“I was at a barbecue talking to Kate. I asked her where all the young people were. Once they leave school they all seem to vanish,” Mr Hartvigsen said.
“It’s hard finding workers in the industry.”
They hatched a plan to bring Clutha school pupils on to farms to learn aspects of the dairy trade. If the project went well, they had ambitions to expand its reach to other parts of the country, and other parts of the farming industry, outside of dairy.
“Along with helping the industry, it’s great for our students to know there are other opportunities out there,” Mrs Staniford said.
She had contacted other schools in the district to get them involved in the project. They were eager to be part of it.
“We’ve got students from The Catlins Area School, Tokomairiro and South Otago High School. We send them to farms that are local to them,” she said.
Mr Michaels said Dairy NZ became involved with the project because “stats for career changes are not great. There is a big drop off in the first year . we want to attract more people to the industry and make sure they get a good experience when they start.”
TCAS pupil Josh Williams (16) is one of the young people selected to be part of the programme. He had his first experience feeding calves.
“It was good, but you do need a lot of patience,” he said.