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Tractor spraying soybean field at spring

TeenAg students get taste of work in the Waikato

A group of Waikato students has had a glimpse at the careers on offer in the agricultural contracting sector.

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A group of Waikato students has had a glimpse at the careers on offer in the agricultural contracting sector.

Members of the Te Awamutu College TeenAg club have toured the workshop and depot of John Austin.

The company employs about 100 people during peak periods when crops are planted and harvested.

“It was our club’s first field trip,” said Year 10 student Jacob Tetley-Jones.

Students wearing hi-vis vests got to inspect the company’s machinery, which is fitted with the latest GPS technology.

John Austin shows TeenAg students around his workshop. Photo / Supplied

“Their planters are really high-tech. They shut off automatically if they go over an area that has already been planted,” said Jacob.

Jacob is studying agriculture and horticulture and is interested in becoming an agricultural contractor.

The industry is in dire need of young people with the right skills and attributes.

“There is a shortage of New Zealand workers with the ability and passion to do the job,” said Helen Slattery, vice-president of Rural Contractors NZ.

She and husband Roger run a Waikato contracting business.

Helen said the sector currently has to rely on drivers from countries like Ireland and United Kingdom to meet demand.

“As an industry, we’re working to improve the training and qualifications we have on offer,” said Helen.

“Training is essential. Drivers can often be working on hilly terrain and we want to ensure they make it home safely.”

Helen’s tips for young people keen to enter the industry are simple: Get a driver’s licence and have a good work ethic.

“Our contractors will always find room for passionate young people who are too young to drive on the road,” she said.

“They often help with maintenance. It’s important they know how to complete a daily check of a tractor’s fluid levels, fuel, tyres and computer system.”

Once the basics are mastered the opportunities are endless and can include working overseas in the off season.

“It’s hard, often dirty work and the hours are long. But if you’re passionate, agricultural contracting is an awesome lifestyle,” said Helen.

¦TeenAg clubs are run by NZ Young Farmers and funded by the Red Meat Profit Partnership (RMPP).

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