The pair, aged 20, moved from Gisborne to the Bay of Plenty to take up cadetships with Seeka Kiwifruit Industries and say more school leavers should think about the huge opportunities that New Zealand’s horticulture industry offers.
“It’s not just a job we have, it’s a career path,” Brandon says. “We’re really appreciative and grateful. If you’re willing to work hard, there’s good money in it. And the kiwifruit industry’s expanding so there’s endless amounts of work.”
The two friends work on a variety of orchards around Te Puke and have learnt about all facets of the kiwifruit business – from pruning, thinning and girdling kiwifruit vines through to pest management, packhouse and cool store operations.
Levi says every day is different and their employer has helped them gain a variety of certifications, including first aid, chainsaw use and tractor and forklift driving.
“It’s really cool. We’re just like sponges, listening and learning as much as we can.”
Seeka also encouraged them to gain formal qualifications while learning on the job. They have been studying towards National Certificates in Horticulture, completing their Level 3 papers, and currently working towards Level 4.
More than 460 other people in the Bay of Plenty are studying towards horticultural qualifications with Primary ITO.
“It’s really worth giving study a go because of the opportunities it opens up,” Levi says. “In our assignments we learn about things like pests and diseases. To have that theoretical knowledge and know all about the different prevention methods really reinforces the skills we’re learning in the orchard each day. There’s also a great sense of achievement.”
Neither had any NCEA credits in horticulture before leaving Gisborne Boys High School. Brandon says school leavers who enjoy being outdoors and don’t mind getting their hands dirty should consider a career in kiwifruit.
“Something I’ve also come to enjoy is reaping the rewards of our work which you don’t see until a year or two later. Like training a leader, for example. In two years it could be carrying a full crop and that’s quite satisfying. I think that feeling will only increase once I have my name on an orchard. You’d feel quite proud.”
Having been introduced to all areas of the kiwifruit industry in the past two years, both men say they’re keen to pursue orchard management positions once their cadetships finish next year.
Both intend to keep studying with Primary ITO to further their knowledge and give them the best possible chance of progressing through the ranks.
“We knew nothing about horticulture until my Dad suggested we give it a shot,” Brandon says. “There’s heaps of opportunities here and different career paths to follow so I’m really glad we did.”
If you would like to know more, visit www.letsgrow.co.nz. Primary ITO is currently offering 50 per cent off Horticulture Apprenticeships (first year fees only).
Source: Bay of Plenty Times