Varsity students can ease migrant worker gaps
3 August 2020 - Media Release - Farmers Weekly
Lincoln University students can now be an option to help ease the pressure on rural contractors struggling to fill the gaps of missing migrant workers.
Alongside offering qualifications designed to meet the future employment needs of the food and fibre sector, Lincoln has taken steps to help the sector by modifying its rules around compulsory practical work requirements in courses to include rural contracting.
The Government’s Targeted Training and Apprenticeship Fund is covering course costs for four Lincoln University sub-degree programmes – Diplomas in Horticulture, Agriculture, Farm Management and Organic Agri-Food Production – from July 2020 until December 2022.
All have a practical work requirement, as do many other programmes at the land-based university.
Rural contractor work could include hay and silage baling, as well as spraying, muck spreading, shearing, cultivation and other tractor operation and bulk supplementary feed production.
Acting Vice-Chancellor Professor Bruce McKenzie said Lincoln is strongly connected to the sector and the change followed a discussion with Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor about how to help.
“We are happy to be able to do something practical which will assist, while also giving our students wider experience.
“We are being innovative in our course offerings to meet sector needs so we are looking at how we can meet the future and current needs of the food and fibre sector.”
Agribusiness lecturer Dan Smith said typically many British and Irish workers travel to NZ to complete this work and many rural contractors would usually be in the United Kingdom recruiting staff now.
“Given the current global pandemic, it is unlikely these workers will have the freedom to come here which will place a lot of pressure on these businesses, and this was putting pressure on contractors to fill their needs.”
Smith said agricultural degrees and diplomas at Lincoln include a practical work component where students are required to work on-farm to gain experience.
“This year Lincoln University will extend the parameters of this practical work to allow students to get out and work for rural contractors, ” Smith said.
“We see the value in this experience and also see the incredible importance of the rural contractor industry.
“Allowing the students to count rural contracting work towards their practical work requirement, we hope, will alleviate some of the pressure on these contractors.”