Government struggles to attract sign-ups for $3 million farming course

Millions of dollars are being spent by the Government to try to fill hundreds of vacant farming jobs, but sign-ups have been slow.

The dairy sector alone relies on about 6000 migrant workers each year but DairyNZ CEO Tim Mackle says the border restrictions mean there will be lots of empty positions.

The Government is desperate to fill more than 1000 farming vacancies as the country heads into spring calf season, and they hope to get Kiwis impacted by the pandemic into work too.

On Tuesday Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor was in the Waikato to learn about quad bikes, showing it's wheels up for the new $3 million dairy farming course.

Local Labour candidate Jamie Strange was along shaking hands too, the election campaign clearly underway.

Students Cailtin and Leighton drove over from Tauranga for the course after struggling to find jobs after the COVID-19 pandemic.

"They paid for our gas and accommodation so we really didn't have to stress about anything," Caitlin says.

Anna also came up from Hawke's Bay after losing her job due to coronavirus and thought the farming course was "a great opportunity".

But so far it seems not enough Kiwis want to take advantage of the course.

Tuesday's session only signed up eight people, despite being big enough for 12, and in the South Island a similar course with 180 spots had just 50 applicants.

O'Connor says more New Zealanders need to get into farming and an upcoming advertising campaign will help to promote the course.

"Look I think the industry still has a big job to get out there and tell the story of what the opportunities are, and there are many many of them."

At the end of their three-week course, Dairy New Zealand will help pair the students up with farmers and with more than 1000 jobs currently going, it shouldn't be too hard to find one.

Anna's already secured one rearing calves and afterwards hopes to move into a farm assistant position.

We just need 1000 or so more Kiwis like her.