More young minds eyeing food and fibre careers is the aim of new Government support for agricultural and horticultural science teachers in secondary schools, Agriculture and Rural Communities Minister Damien O’Connor has announced.
The Government is committing $1.6 million over five years to the initiative through the Ministry for Primary Industries’ Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures (SFF Futures) fund.
“New Zealand’s food and fibre sector is the backbone of our economy and is how more than 367,000 people earn a living. We’re working hard to build resilience and meet future workforce demand as the sector grows,” said O’Connor.
“Our food and fibre sector is nothing if we don’t have good people. Educated and enthusiastic people are our competitive advantage as an exporter because it’s people that deliver technology and grow value.
“We’re backing the development of a nationwide advisory team to provide support to agricultural and horticultural science teachers, create resources, and provide important links to local food and fibre sector partners.”
The funding will provide for one full-time adviser and a support person based at St Paul’s Collegiate School in Hamilton, and up to 16 part-time regionally based advisers.
“We have a $52 billion food and fibre sector we want to grow. This requires employees who can think critically and problem solve,” continued O’Connor.
“It will also help young New Zealanders understand the many exciting career options that are available throughout the value chain and provide them with real-life work experience opportunities in their local communities.
“There are 126 schools across the country teaching agricultural and horticultural science and we’re aiming to increase this number, especially in urban areas.
“We expect the support network will be a huge help to teachers who usually have sole charge of their subject and often have to take care of farmlets or orchards as part of their role.”
O’Connor said the nationwide advisory team will survey the professional development needs of agricultural and horticultural science teachers annually.
“They’ll provide workshops to build professional practice, tailored mentoring and support for individual teachers where required, and develop and distribute teaching resources.
“They’ll also provide assistance to enhance student achievement and help raise the profile and public perception of agricultural and horticultural science.”
O’Connor said he’d like to see this approach continuing beyond the life of the five-year project.
“One of the goals of this project is for the model to be self-sustaining so it continues to support teachers and their students long into the future.”