Horticultural Training Offers High-Value Career Options to Northland Youth

Thanks to a partnership between Plant & Food Research and Orangewood Packhouse, over the last four years 51 students from five Northland secondary schools have graduated from a horticultural programme that offers hands-on training and NCEA credits.

The Kerikeri Gateway Horticulture Schools Programme has recently secured additional funding from Te Taitokerau Trades Academy to continue its 5th session in 2021. Championed by Plant & Food Research, the programme is an investment in the future of science and horticulture and supports the organisation’s Māori strategy TONO and its goal to foster Māori talent, particularly rangatahi Māori (Māori youth).

“It’s very encouraging news to us and everyone who has worked towards making this happen despite the challenges brought by COVID-19,” commented Stacey Whitiora, Group GM Māori, Plant & Food Research.

“The additional funding recognises the programme’s value in uplifting rangatahi Māori and the programme’s contribution to Northland horticulture and the growing Māori economy. The majority of participants identify as Māori, and its great to see that the programme is opening doors for these rangatahi into new education and employment opportunities.”

The funding from Te Taitokerau Trades Academy will support 16 year 11-13 students to train at Plant & Food Research Kerikeri Research Centre and Orangewood Packhouse. The programme, managed and delivered by New Zealand Sports Turf Institute (NZSTI), is designed to attract rangatahi to horticultural careers by providing valuable hands-on learning while achieving credits outside the classroom and help them smoothly transition from education to employment.

From an industry perspective, the programme gives employers access to employees with much needed practical and soft skills and an interest in horticulture.

In addition to soft skills, the programme covers health and safety, winter pruning, field grafting, kiwifruit canopy management, crop-thinning, harvesting of kiwifruit, and grading and packing of fruit crops.

The students can earn up to 40 NCEA credits, which appeals to students who prefer learning outside the static classroom environment. The programme also provides students with pastoral care, founded on the concept of tuakana/tēina (reciprocal mentoring).

The students have shown exceptional dedication to their learning and assessment outcomes on the programme. Since its inception, four graduates have been employed by Orangewood in seasonal work and two have worked in the Plant & Food Research Kerikeri FastLab. A number of graduates of the programme have gone on to higher learning, entered the workforce or returned to school.