Twenty-three high school students from the upper North Island have completed a four-day live-in programme at Waikato University to learn more about career opportunities in the agricultural sector.

The recent Rabobank Agri Leadership Programme was attended by year 12 and 13 students from 16 different high schools across the Northland, Auckland and Waikato regions. Students were selected on academic performance, leadership attributes and career aspirations.

The programme included visits to local farming operations and leading agricultural businesses, including Fonterra, Dairy NZ, Silver Fern Farms, Zeelong Tea and Vetora (veterinary services co-operative), as well as presentations from key New Zealand agribusiness leaders such as Julia Jones from KPMG.

Grace Moscrip, a year 13 student from Whangarei Girls High School, said the programme had given her a whole new appreciation of the range of careers available in the agricultural sector.

“I come from a dairy farm in Hukerenui, and I thought I knew lots about the sector, but I’ve learnt so much in the last few days from the visits and from the different people that spoke to us,” she said.

Grace said the programme had been an “awesome experience” and had cemented her desire to study agribusiness once she leaves high school.

“I’ve always wanted to go to university and I’m very interested in doing something around ag science. I don’t have any specific agribusiness role in mind at this stage, but there were several roles mentioned during the week that sounded really cool.”

Now in its fourth year, the Agri-Leadership Programme was developed in 2015 by Rabobank’s Waikato Client Council – a group of Waikato-based Rabobank clients who meet regularly to discuss agricultural industry issues and implement ideas to contribute to the sustainability of rural communities.

Waikato Client Council chairperson Pamela Storey said the council developed the initiative as it felt more needed to be done to ensure school leavers were aware of the range of careers available in the sector.

“Prior to launching the programme, the council spoke to a number of young people working in the sector to find out how they’d ended up in their roles. Several of these young people said they’d stumbled across a career in the sector, rather than being directed towards it, and that they would have looked at the agricultural sector earlier if they’d known about the opportunities,” she said.

“We wanted to do something to help address this issue and, after considering a few different alternatives, we landed on a four-day educational programme. This format has worked really well over the last four years and we’ve had feedback from alumni who have said they have chosen to study and pursue careers in agri as a direct result of the programme.”

The Rabobank Waikato Agri-Leadership Programme is one of a number of Rabobank initiatives to help encourage young people into the agricultural sector.