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Pipfruit management skills on offer at EIT

November 29, 2018

Steven Hartley, Taylor Apples’ was an early enrolment for the new NZ Diploma in Horticulture Production (Fruit Production) at EIT that starts in January.

Hawke’s Bay’s apple industry is needing to fill more than 100 new permanent skilled jobs a year for the next seven years and none of them are as apple pickers.

EIT has responded to the industry’s call for more professional management skills within its workforce. Working with industry leaders, the school of Primary Industries has reviewed its full offering for 2019 to ensure that what is offered will address the future skills needs.

New Zealand Apples and Pears Incorporated has stated that over a million new trees are being planted in New Zealand each year with the bulk of them in Hawke’s Bay.

The increased planting will require large investment over the coming years in infrastructure along with a skilled workforce to handle everything from production and packing to storage and export. 

“Our pipfruit industry is now a career industry. There is huge potential for existing and new employees to develop a successful ongoing career path in all aspects from orchard management, to post harvest handling and export. There are many careers beyond the orchard gate,” says Paul Keats, assistant head of school, EIT Primary Industries.

“Businesses are now highly corporatised. They’re multi-million-dollar businesses employing permanent staff who need solid management skills. We have revamped what we offer in consultation with the industry to help develop the skill base that’s needed to handle this phenomenal growth.”

A new NZ Diploma in Horticulture Production programme is being launched in 2019. It has three strands – fruit production (starting in January), nursery production (starting in February) and post harvest (starting in July).

Geared for existing growers and other industry participants wanting to move into supervisory and leadership roles, the fruit production and post harvest strands are offered part-time around key seasonal crunch points. The bulk of the teaching will fall in the quieter July to November period.

Classes for the fruit production strand are scheduled on Wednesdays running for three hours from 3pm at EIT’s Hastings Regional Learning Centre for ease of accessibility.

Industry experts will be drawn in for specific topics over the two-year programme. Covered will be human resources, quality control, leadership, health and safety and other aspects relating to managing people.

Steven Hartley owns an orchard and is part of the Taylor Apples’ business. He completed the horticulture certificate at EIT a number of years ago. He has already enrolled for the fruit production diploma starting in January.

A Scotsman, he was new to orcharding and spent several years working to build his skills and understanding.  After completing the certificate, he progressed to orchard foreman and eventually bought his orchard.

He’s supportive of the need for the pipfruit industry to have higher skilled individuals. “I think people who want to take their career to the next level, who want to understand more of the finer details of running a business, would benefit.

“I believe in EIT’s teaching having been there already. Their courses relate to my own job role and the teaching staff provide good support.  Bring it on I say!”

Erin Simpson, capability manager for NZ Apples and Pears Inc, is one of the industry leaders that EIT has been working with to revamp its educational offering.

He says “EIT is absolutely heading in the right direction to give our industry people with the core skills we need. It is excellent that they have been proactive and consulted with us to do this.”

Those skills include health and safety, food safety, people management and teamwork, systems design, production systems, sustainable practices and environmental awareness, logistics and financial management.