Most of the students emerging from EIT’s horticultural certificate programme this year are stepping straight into jobs.
The one year, fees free programme offers certificates both in horticulture (fruit production) and Vehicle, Machinery and Infrastructure.
It has been warmly welcomed by horticulture employers, who are facing a huge shortage of skilled workers. Graduates are virtually guaranteed work because they are able to hit the ground running, with practical “hands-on” experience a big component of the programme.
“It’s an awesome course,” says Piki Witeri who is not complaining about going straight from the programme into the workplace.
“I am looking forward to earning some money for my children,” she said.
Both she and John Battin are single parents gearing up to re-enter the workforce.
Such was the shortage of skilled people in the industry that large employers like Thomsons Horticulture were offering flexible hours for those with family commitments.
“They are short of 1500 people in horticulture in this area,” said John.
As part of the programme, students learned everything from the basics of fruit production to safely operating gear like quad bikes, chainsaws and hydraladders.
And as well as the theory, much of the learning had been hands-on experience in EIT Tairawhiti’s rural studies orchard and other commercial orchards in the local region.
There was a big focus on health and safety; learning the potential hazards of using orchard equipment and agrichemicals and how to prevent hazards.
“We have learned pruning, thinning, grafting and harvesting, putting up orchard structures like irrigation and even creating an orchard, said Piki.
“It’s been an awesome experience being here – we had a fantastic tutor who made the programme exciting.”
Tutor Andrew Baker works alongside the students ensuring they learn the full spectrum of orcharding skills, right down to identifying and dealing with pests and diseases and factoring in conditions like weather and soil.
He and other horticultural tutors have contacts in the industry to help introduce students to the industry environment.
The next programme starts in February. EIT staff can help advise on financial support available including Study Link.