Rural contractors in the deep south are lending machinery and support to three training initiatives designed to attract and interest those who’ve lost jobs so they can move into available work in the farming and contracting sector.

Southern Institute of Technology SIT is starting its training opportunities next week with Agricultural Redeployment Expos in Queenstown (June 10 at Rydges Hotel) and June 11 at Te Anau’s Community Events Centre.

These will be followed by three day ‘taster camps’ at SIT’s Telford campus which will allow people to experience a range of primary sector activities.

A six-week Agricultural Contractor course starts on June 15. This will be in two week blocks starting at Telford with farm health and safety, basic mechanics, tractor driving and towing before moving into advance driver training. The final two weeks will be a work placement.

All costs for the courses including meals and accommodation are being provided by SIT which has support from MPI and Rural Contractors NZ.

RCNZ President David Kean, himself a Southlander, says its great to see the SIT effort to attract 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.

“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 skill and get into a good job.”

David 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. 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 CEO Roger Parton has 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. Its president (and RCNZ stalwart) John Tulloch has worked with the AgriCentre at Milton and they are providing two CASE IH tractors, a mower and rake for trainees to use.”

Roger 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.”