A year ago Jack Ellingham was honing his shearing technique in a noisy woolshed at Waipaoa Station, north of Gisborne.
He would gently guide his shearing handpiece across the sheep, the vibrating combs clipping the wool off its body.
Shearing, fencing, and dog handling were some of the crucial skills the 20-year-old learned during 24-months at the station.
Waipaoa Station is a 1760 hectare (effective) property carrying 16,000 stock units, consisting of sheep and cattle.
It runs a coveted two-year cadetship, which was set up in 2007, and takes just five new cadets each year.
“Demand for places is exceptionally high. It gets between 35-45 applicants a year,” said Jack, who graduated in December 2018.
Jack grew up on a 650 hectare sheep and beef farm near Dannevirke. His family now farms near Waipukurau.
He boarded at Napier Boys’ High School and was a member of the school’s TeenAg club.
“I was attracted to Waipaoa Station because of its experienced tutors. It was an awesome training ground,” Jack said.
Skills taught in the classroom are able to be applied out in the paddock. Cadets graduate work-ready with several qualifications.
“In your first year an average day might include fencing, tractor work and fixing a water pipe,” said Jack.
“The following year involves a lot of stock handling and working with dogs you trained the previous year.”
Senior cadets are paired with a first-year student and act as mentors. The cadets live in a hostel with a full-time cook.
“We all sit down for dinner at the end of the day at the same time and have a yarn,” said Jack, who was named the top cadet in 2018.
“It’s a good time to catch up and reflect on what has happened during the day.”
“Cadets come from across New Zealand. A girl in my year grew up in the city, you don’t have to be off a farm,” he said.
Applicants must be between 16 and 19 years of age, still be at school, and achieve NCEA Level 2.
“People are accepted from all backgrounds, you just have to show that you’re keen,” he said.
“You submit a C.V. and a cover letter. Then you get a 15 minute interview – that’s your time to shine.”
“It’s actually a bit of a daunting experience because you get interviewed by an eight-member board,” he said.
Jack’s now in his first year of a Bachelor of Agriculture (Commerce) at Lincoln University in Canterbury.
“It’s certainly a change of lifestyle, but I think I have adjusted alright,” he laughed.
“What I learned at Waipaoa Station is proving to be really relevant and beneficial to my studies now.”
Waipaoa Station is one of a handful of farms offering cadet training programmes.
The others are Smedley Station, Otiwhiti Station, Pukemiro Station, Coleridge Downs and Jeff Farm.
People considering applying for a cadetship at Waipaoa Station are urged to attend open days in early June.
Applications for the 2020 intake of cadets close in August.