NorthTec Dargaville has been collaborating with local landowner Debbie Mason to help provide learners with hands-on experience and become industry-ready, skilled agriculture labourers.
Debbie Mason owns close to 10 acres, just outside the Dargaville township. Debbie was originally approached by Jim Smith, NorthTec’s Agriculture Pathway Manager, about a possible collaboration on her property.
“I’ve owned the property for almost 20 years,” says Debbie. “But I went away for a while and the property went downhill. I hired professionals to do some major fencing that needed to be done. But there is still a lot to do. That’s when Jim approached me.”
The arrangement allows for students undertaking the Certificate in Primary Industry Skills (Level 2) which focuses on three core areas, apiculture, fencing, and pest control, to get hands-on learning in the community. As Debbie’s property is mostly unused, the students are able to make mistakes and take the time to correct them.
Jim says, “Debbie’s land was close to our Dargaville campus and had a good range of jobs. She really supports people having a go. We’re always looking for opportunities to help develop practical skills.”
“Jim told me if the students make a mistake, they can fix it. And they have, it’s been great,” says Debbie. “You can see some of the knots and things improving as they get used to fencing. And they’ve had some innovative ideas, some of them are great. Some don’t work out and it’s no biggie. They can come and change it, they fix it, it’s been good.”
The students have primarily been building fences and practicing pest control skills (such as trapping) on the property. Debbie also allowed them to place beehives on the property, helping the students to get a good grounding in apiculture.
The collaboration has completed its semester and Debbie is happy to continue the arrangement going forward. She says hands-on work is the best way to learn a skill. Hands-on learning at NorthTec is beneficial to the students and provides trained labourers for the area. Something that is in high demand at this time.