Food and fibre sector leaders are counting on Generation Z (loosely defined as those born between 1995 and 2010) to take on the future of New Zealand’s food and fibre sector and meet the challenges it faces.
The key to attracting Generation Z (Gen Z) to the sector will be making them aware of the scope of opportunities across the sector, says Madison Pannett, the Kellogg Rural Leadership scholar behind the report, Generation Z and the environment – how can we use their passion to attract them into food and fibre sector careers?
“I have found my journey into the sector so personally rewarding, so I was keen to explore how to inspire young people to join,” Madison says. She now works for the Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) as a senior adviser in the Animal Welfare Liaison team.
“From my research, I found that Gen Z mainly associates food and fibre sector careers with roles onfarm and not with the wider opportunities that are available.” She says that sector leaders need to tell the story of the scope of rewarding and diverse roles available for Gen Z to contribute and work in line with their values.
Head of Massey University School of Agriculture and Environment at Palmerston North, Paul Kenyon, says Massey has a wide range of study options that cover the spectrum from pre to post the farm gate, encompassing animal health and welfare, and the environment – key interest areas for Gen Z.
“What sets us apart is the fact that we have many disciplines together on one site that individually contribute to our agricultural ranking.
“Obviously, there is our agricultural programme of study, but we also have horticulture, animal science, agribusiness, environmental science, earth science, ecology, food science, and veterinary science, with all groups working together collaboratively.”
Paul notes Massey ranks particularly high in employer reputation, as in what employers think of their graduates. Job prospects are so good for agricultural tertiary students, that they need more students to meet industry demand.
“Many of our students have roles confirmed halfway through their last year and the majority have roles confirmed before the end of their last year,” he says.
Ben Crane, who was awarded Massey’s 2021 Agriculture Student of the Year, can advocate for Massey’s agricultural programme. Originally from urban Taranaki, Ben had zero experience in agriculture, and his first glimpse into the field stemmed from being part of his school’s trial of the NCEA Agribusiness courses.
The driving force for his decision to attend Massey University was the range of industry scholarships available and the job prospects upon graduation.
This meant a minimal student loan, and a maximum return on investment for Ben, which has indeed paid off for him as a graduate. Here is his sound advice for school leavers considering their options:
“My number one piece of advice for school leavers, or anyone wanting to do a degree, who are unsure exactly what to do, is to choose something that is so broad you can work in any sector or business.
“As a school leaver, or anyone in fact, you are highly likely to be a different person when you finish your degree. Agribusiness allows you to complete a wide range of papers giving you the ability to pick up an understanding on business and science topics.”
Ben was a part of DairyNZ’s scholarship programme during his degree, which led to the opportunity to be the student representative for the NZ Institute of Primary Industry Management. Recently, he has been awarded the graduate placement for H&T Agronomics where he will begin training to become a qualified forage and crop advisor, following his strong passion for the seeds industry.
Another notable Massey University alumnus is Hannah Wood, a food technologist who is now paving the way for NZ’s gelato scene with her award-winning business Little ‘Lato. Hannah, who features on the This Working Life series on Fieldays TV, says she was unsure about what she wanted to do after school, but a representative from Massey University inspired her to study food technology there.
“I think food technology was a great platform for learning about different areas [of the sector], and everything you do is going to give you breadth of experience that will help you,” she says.
“The ultimate goal would be to bring authentic gelato to New Zealand and get people on the bandwagon!”
To check out how other young people are making their way in the food and fibre sector, head to the This Working Life channel on Fieldays TV at fieldaysonline.co.nz and watch on demand. Head to massey.ac.nz to explore their programmes of study.