The first batch of overseas drivers for local agricultural contracting work is expected in the country next week, says Rural Contractors New Zealand (RCNZ) chief executive Roger Parton.
Southern Institute of Technology (SIT) recently ran three training opportunities around the region to allow people to experience a range of primary sector activities.
A six-week Agricultural Contractor course starts on June 15. This is being held in two-week blocks at Telford – with farm health and safety, basic mechanics, tractor driving and towing, before moving into advance driver training. The final two weeks are a work placement.
All costs for the courses, including meals and accommodation are being provided by SIT, which also has support from the Ministry for Primary Industries and Rural Contractors NZ (RCNZ).
RCNZ President David Kean says it’s great to see SIT’s efforts in attracting people into rural contracting and farming work.
“Our industry is crying out for people and we’ve always tried to recruit Kiwis. Until now, we’ve had to bring in around 150 skilled machinery operators every spring/summer season, but that will be unlikely for 2020/21 at least.
“In the meantime, there are lots of Kiwis who’ve lost jobs and these SIT initiatives give them every chance to look at rural contracting and farm work, learn some basic skills and get into a good job.”
Kean says those who can competently drive complex agricultural machinery can earn a decent living here, as well as Australia and wider destinations when that opens up.
“My own son had a stint across in west Australia and funded himself into a new ute,” he adds. “Contractors and farmers in the UK and Ireland are also among those keen to employ New Zealand machinery operators. There can be good travel and earn opportunities.”
RCNZ chief executive Roger Parton worked with SIT to help bring together the expos and training.
“Much of the learning involves machinery so we’ve reached out to our members and the Tractor and Machinery Association.”
Parton says RCNZ has been working at developing some of its own training initiatives and is aware that parallel courses to those being run by SIT are being actively developed for the North Island.
“Rural contractors will back any initiative that gives opportunities to New Zealanders who’ve lost jobs and want to retrain for our sector.”