A large number of Ellesmere College students are leaving school with valuable work skills and a career pathway thanks to the Gateway programme supported by Ellesmere Sustainable Agriculture Inc (ESAI).
ESAI education coordinator Jo Benny says that the local farmer-led group is incredibly proud to enable six local students this year to complete the Gateway and Rural Trades Academy.
“There has been a growing interest in the vocational courses, but the limited funding from the Ministry of Education was stopping many students from exploring those pathways, so we are pleased ESAI was able to support many students who would have missed out,” says Benny.
The ESAI committee member explains that education is one of the core goals in its strategic plan to ensure succession of the next generation of agricultural workers and potential ESAI members.
“It is our goal to foster a love of farming, the environment and kaitiaki in our young people, as well as demonstrating agriculture in a positive light to promote farming as a viable career pathway,” says Benny.
ESAI has also been working closely with the Southbridge and Leeston primary schools through planting initiatives but realised the College Gateway programme was the perfect fit to help young adults explore farming.
Jackson Laffey was one of the College students who recently received an ESAI award at the school prizegiving after working part-time on a dairy farm.
“I like to be outdoors and to get my hands dirty. ESAI has helped me a lot to do this course,” says Jackson.
Angelina Millar was another student to explore her passion for agriculture and thanks to ESAI funding was able to take her first steps towards her goal of becoming an agricultural helicopter pilot.
“I am really passionate about farming. I enjoy working with livestock and horticulture, but I definitely want to either work in the labs with genetics or be an agricultural pilot,” says Angelina, who says that the Gateway programme had given her a better idea what jobs are out there and what she can apply for.
The partnership between ESAI and the college has been so successful that the farmer collective has already committed to funding 10 more students in 2022.
The ESAI education coordinator says that the group next year hopes to develop an even stronger relationship with the students by inviting them to ESAI courses and meetings.
“We also want to provide mentoring opportunities where our members can share their own career stories and show the students the professional and leadership opportunities in agriculture,” says Benny.
“We hope the students will also be involved with the riparian planting projects we run through Project Tinaku, helping out at plant out days, or even some possible employment with our contractors.”
Benny says that ESAI is proud of what has been achieved in waterway restoration through riparian management and promoting farm practice modification.
“But it will be the next generation who will need to continue the process, manage the riparian plantings in future and continue to change farm systems to meet environmental expectations. The investment in local young people is a logical component of the Tinaku Project.”
Caption 1: Jackson Laffey, left, and Hamish Chatterton, right, receive their ESAI awards supported by their Gateway Coordinator Zodie Bonnett.
Caption 2: Angelina Millar from the Ellesmere College Gateway scheme working at planting project with primary school children on Rakaia Island.