Focus on agriculture: Seamless transition from on-campus to in-work learning

Focus on agriculture: Seamless transition from on-campus to in-work learning

Last updated 16 December 2022
Last updated 16 December 2022

Troy Mclaughlin knows first-hand the benefit of being able to shift from on-campus to in-work learning.  The West Coast farm worker credits an innovative new approach to agriculture training on the West Coast with helping him get a job and achieve his goals for the year.

At the beginning of 2021, Tai Poutini Polytechnic partnered with Primary ITO on a pilot programme which saw the two organisations work hand-in-hand to tailor agriculture learning to the student. It was a sector-leading approach that embraced the intent of the national vocational education reforms and creates a seamless transition for learners between the classroom and the farm.

As polytechnics and ITOs around the country transition to Te Pūkenga the West Coast agriculture training pilot is an early example of how the new system can work better for learners. The benefits for the students are obvious, with clearer pathways, more flexibility and greater support from tutors right throughout their learning and first stages of work. Partnerships with employers are also becoming stronger as everyone works together toward the same goal.

Previously, on-campus students enrolled in one programme and in-work learners enrolled on a different programme running in parallel.  In order to allow students to move seamlessly between learning and work the two organisations agreed to deliver the same programme. The aim of the programme is that cohorts of learners on the New Zealand Certificate in Agriculture (Level 3) with strands in Dairy Farming, and Meat and/or Fibre, whether enrolled in the in-work option or the on-campus learning, attended the same theory classes and shared the same learning platform (Primary ITO mahi tahi).  Learners in-work complete the practical skills on their employers’ farms while on-campus learners attend the training farm at Reefton. Learners can move in and out of the same programme on the West Coast if their circumstances or needs change.

Troy describes it an easy way to learn and work for someone who enjoys a practical approach and needs “a bit of help” with the academic workload.  “I grew up on a dairy grazing farm, but I wasn’t working and was looking for something to do. I met the agriculture tutor and he was a great help getting me started. I’m not much of an academic and it was a bit scary to be fair.

“They would sit down with me and go through my book work, ask questions and get me working on what was missing. I have no idea what I’d be doing now if I hadn’t signed-up.”

Troy is one of about two dozen students who have been through the pilot programme in the past two years, each having a different experience as the Polytechnic and ITO tutors and staff identify their strengths, when they’re ready for work and what wrap-around support they need.

Tai Poutini Polytechnic Tutor Bryan Harris says he worked with Troy to improve his confidence with assessments during training then, once his self-confidence grew and results improved, he got him on the farm and studying online.

“When he was ready we took Troy out to Pāmu Farms, as they were looking for a calf-rearer, and filled an application out on the spot. He soon became a super star with his manager loving having him on the farm. He’s moved up to a full-time assistant role and was introduced to the Primary ITO training advisor so that he could transition and continue his study on the New Zealand Certificate in Agriculture (Level 3) while he works.”  Troy continues to have access to any on campus support or resources that he may need.

Pāmu Farms Manager Daniel Mears says Troy is just one example of students he employs on the farm that have come through the new partnership between the Polytechnic and ITO.  “We have a big operation on the Coast and we need staff so it’s great to have good young talent coming through. Most of them have been absolutely fantastic and it’s a great partnership to have in place.”