The new year brings fresh opportunities to gain or improve on your skill and educational levels. By Karen Trebilcock.

It’s almost the end of the year and thoughts should be turning to the next. What are your goals for you and your staff and how are you going to achieve them?

Somewhere in the mix could be, and probably should be, some training.

That expression that you can’t teach old dogs new tricks was busted long ago – it is never too late for anyone to learn something new.

For your staff and possibly you, make sure the PrimaryITO courses are ticked off. They start at the beginner’s level and there’s a Diploma in Agribusiness Management at level five.

Courses have been designed for workers on farms so they mix online and practical learning and if reading and writing are
not your thing, then there are people to
help with that too.

Separate units are on driving tractors, quad bikes and other machinery to keep you and your workers safe.

These courses have been designed for workers on farms so they mix online and practical learning and if reading and writing are not your thing, then there are people to help with that too.

If no one is keen to upskill on your farm, at the very least, make sure everyone, including partners, has done a first aid course in the past few years. If not, schedule it.

Ask around about gun licences too. Make sure the people who need to use a firearm for work, or own one, have an up-to-date licence. Make sure licences don’t lapse. It’s a lot easier to renew than to have to sit the test again.

And if any of your staff are still on their restricted driver’s licence when they should be on their full by now, get it organised. I know you shouldn’t have to hold people’s hands for this sort of thing but often it gets forgotten about. Making it important for you and them means it gets done.

For those who are still making their AI techs stand on trolleys or boards in the pit, find a welding course in your area. It’s not that hard to weld together an AI race in the yard, or fix that gate that has never closed properly or the backing gate that just doesn’t work.

You could add a basic plumbing course as well. Fixing leaking water troughs, or leaking anything, is easy if you know how. The equipment needed, and the materials, are a lot cheaper than they have ever been.

Also remember mental health. There are courses on dealing with stress, counselling and general wellbeing and most include practical tools and strategies that can be applied on the farm.

For courses on all of these, just google. There will be one near you but check what you are going to learn is what you need to know and the price is right. Training is now big business and there are not many courses that are free although subsidies and grants may be available.

If you are looking for something more structured, and possibly a change in career, check out the

Open Polytechnic or Massey University. Both offer extramural (at home) learning and the degrees and diplomas are numerous if you like this sort of learning. If you already have a university degree and want to add to it while still working onfarm, Massey is a great choice.

But if while putting cups on cows you find your mind wandering to things beyond the farm gate such as the latest legislation affecting waterways, or why the New Zealand dollar keeps fluctuating or what on earth is happening to your Sharesies portfolio, then maybe a course on governance is what you should be thinking about.

You may not own the cows or the farm, but this could be where you’re hopefully heading, and knowing how business works, long-term strategies, risk management and your part in the wider industry are things you need to know about.

It also gives you the tools and knowledge to step forward for a variety of voluntary and paid positions from school and sports committees to company boards. And we need more farmers on company boards.

Fonterra has its own governance programme for farmers and herd-owning sharemilkers. It includes residential courses, distance learning, assessments and one-on-one coaching and by the end of it you will have enhanced your leadership skills, practiced working through governance scenarios, gained greater insights into personality styles and developed your capability for critical and reflective thinking within governance contexts.

There are other governance courses out there too so if you want to be around the table with other decision makers start applying.

The Kellogg Rural Leadership programme has closed for the year but maybe think about it for next.

It’s known as Kelloggs as it was founded by the US Kellogg Foundation. Lincoln University ran the course from 1979 until 2013 when New Zealand Rural Leadership Trust took over the programme development and delivery.

If you are a farmer, producer, grower or an agribusiness professional you can apply as long as you fit the rest of the criteria – applicants are selected based on their passion for the community, ability to demonstrate effective decision making, commitment to the rural sector and aspirations to be a rural leader.

As well as working on a chosen project for six months, you’ll get to network with your fellow students plus with industry leaders.

You’ll also get to brush up on your leadership skills, gain a better understanding of economics and politics as well as many types of farming in NZ. If you want to know how to influence decision making, whether at a local or national level, then this course is for you.

Also run by the New Zealand Rural Leadership Trust is the Nuffield Farming Scholarship. Every year five scholars are chosen from applicants within NZ and 70 in total worldwide from the seven participating countries.

Applications are already closed for next year so again this is one to be thinking about for the future but remember there is an upper age limit – you can’t be older than 49.

As with Kellogg, Nuffield scholars research a topic of personal interest which will also contribute to NZ’s agri-food sector development particularly in advancing knowledge around current challenges and opportunities facing the industry.