The programme will see students from Mid North high schools trade their classrooms one day a week for work experience at Plant and Food Research, a Crown-owned research institute, or the post-harvest facilities and orchards at Orangewood, a major kiwifruit producer.
Schools involved so far include Kerikeri High, Northland College, Okaihau College, Whangaroa College and Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Whangaroa.
Students will make use of a demonstration garden established last year at Plant and Food’s Kerikeri Research Centre with a range of crops that can be grown in Northland. It includes a berry cage, hop garden and Maori garden with crops such as kumara, kamokamo, kawakawa and manuka.
Matauri Bay 16-year-old Caramia Epiha, a wharekura (secondary) student at Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Whangaroa, is considering signing up for the programme.
“I think it’ll be a new experience, and it’s a good step for our future,” she said.
Kerikeri High student Kieran North, 17, said the programme’s hands-on learning appealed.
“You’re learning by doing, not just sitting in a classroom.”
Plant and Food’s Maori relations manager Alby Marsh said the goal was to renew young people’s connection to the land and encourage them to take up careers in horticulture.
“We want to encourage Maori youth especially. A lot of them have left the land and gone to the city, but there’s a call by a lot of our elders for them to come back to the land and start developing it,” he said.
Plant and Food’s chief operating officer Bruce Campbell said the organisation had about 1000 workers nationwide but was placing special emphasis on Northland because of the region’s potential.
The Kerikeri Business and Schools Connection Programme was launched at the Kerikeri Research Centre on Wednesday. After a formal welcome students and guests took part in a series of activities and shared a hangi.
Sixteen students will take part in this year’s programme, which starts in April and is funded by the Tertiary Education Commission’s Gateway Fund. During the year they will earn 30 credits towards the NZ certificate in horticulture Level 2 (fruit production).
By Peter de Graaf
SOURCE: NZ Herald