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Giving Northland students a taste of horticulture

27 Mar 2017

Plant & Food Research and Orangewood Ltd are helping Northland students develop their knowledge of local fruit crops through a new work experience programme, with the aim of increasing local talent in the horticulture workforce.

The two organisations have joined together with the Primary ITO to develop the Kerikeri Business & School Connections Programme. This programme will support the learning of students at four secondary schools in the Kerikeri area – Kerikeri High School, Northland College, Okaihau College and Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Whangaroa – who will work at either Plant & Food Research’s Kerikeri Research Centre or Orangewood’s postharvest and orchard facilities one day each week during the school term. During the course of the year, the students will gain 30 credits towards their New Zealand Certificate in Horticulture Level 2 (Fruit Production).

Plant & Food Research will support the students’ learning through their demonstration garden, which was established in 2016 to provide opportunities for the local community to learn more about the organisation’s activities and experience in the wide range of crops that grow in the Northland region. The demonstration garden includes a berry cage, a hop garden, and a Māori garden with crops of importance to Māori such as kumara, kamokamo, kawakawa and Mānuka.

“Northland is an important region for our horticultural sector, with more than 4,000 hectares planted in fruit and vegetable crops,” says Dr Bruce Campbell, COO of Plant & Food Research. “The Business & School Connections Programme allows us to share our knowledge with local secondary students and show them some of the employment opportunities available in the horticultural sector. It is predicted that New Zealand will need 44,000 trained workers in horticulture by 2025, and two thirds of these will need post-school qualifications. We are pleased we can support the industry in meeting these targets through new initiatives like this school programme.”

The Kerikeri Business & School Connections Programme was launched last week with a hāngi at Plant & Food Research’s Kerikeri Research Centre. Sixteen students will be taking part in the programme during the 2017 school year, funded through the Tertiary Education Commission’s Gateway fund.

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