The first meeting of the newly-formed National Training Council for rural contracting saw a welter of contributions on how to improve training in the industry.

Rural Contractors NZ CEO Andrew Olsen, who initiated the meeting, says the Council got off to a flying start.

“We’ve confirmed our membership and objectives, set our priorities and made a start to defining all the issues we need to work through to get a new, higher-level training regime in place for rural contracting.”

Andrew, who was confirmed as the NTC Chair at the meeting, says they had a good round-table on all the factors necessary to get more and better trained people into the critically labour-short sector.

“A lot of our businesses are quite small and could not easily afford to carry trainees through the off-season. Off-setting that is the fact that employers large and small need to find a way to make more provision for on job training.”

Andrew says while some contractors have been able to recruit more Kiwis, it’s accepted that continuing to attract people to the industry will be improved by having good qualifications available.

“We looked at the Hanzon program which this season enrolled nearly around 100 Kiwis in its app-based record of learning and most were under 24 years of age. We discussed if contractors could connect that pool of resource into more formal training to recognise the work completed?”

There was acceptance by the National Training Council that classroom-based learning is necessary but needs to be more than balanced by that on job.

More centres of excellence equipped to deal with agricultural training would help deliver the necessary classroom components around health & safety, pastoral care, fatigue management and gaining skills and licences in heavy traffic and other machinery.

Andrew Olsen says bringing together a comprehensive regime and qualification would take some time.

“We need Government to recognise that you can’t whistle up a new qualification and deliver it in a few months and meantime our contractors and our country will require skilled overseas workers for the foreseeable future.”

The National Training Council defined its priorities to include better engagement with schools to secure a career training outcome, the design of a new training qualification such as an apprenticeship and a review of current unit standards to determine a baseline for on job and in classroom weightings.

“There’s also a wish to explore wider employment options for trainees to continue their learning and reduce the burden on employers in the off season and to design a call to action to get more contractors involved in training.”

Andrew Olsen says the National Training Council will also look to MPI and other Government agencies for support, including to research a labour exchange program with overseas rural contractors and a mentoring program.

The Council will meet again in July.

The other members of the National Training Council are:

  • Bob Stewart, Portfolio Manager – Trades, Conservation & Primary Industries at UCOL’s farm training base in the Wairarapa
  •  RCNZ President Helen Slattery, who runs a Waikato based rural contractor company with her husband Roger
  • Brook Nettleton, an RCNZ Waikato member, Managing Director of Bluegrass Contracting
  • Jeremy Rothery, Managing Director/Co-owner of Morrinsville-based RCNZ member Jackson Contracting Ltd
  • Gareth Wild, Managing Director, Rural Training Solutions based in the Waikato
  • Richard Houston, who established the HanzonJobs app
  • John Hughes, a former RCNZ President who helped develop rural skills training at SIT’s Telford campus
  • Debbie Rankin, from the SIT Telford campus