Kiwis looking to change careers urged to give beekeeping a try

With many people forced to change jobs in the wake of COVID-19, one option being touted as a possible new career path is beekeeping. 

Unemployment has been steadily rising in recent months, with the coronavirus lockdown having a crippling effect on many businesses across the country.

Air New Zealand has already laid off around 4000 staff, a third of its workforce, and the Warehouse Group announced earlier this week it would be cutting more than 1000 jobs.

That's on top of thousands of other job losses announced.

All of this means some Kiwis are being forced to completely rethink their careers, a daunting prospect for many.

"It's tough losing your job," Gail Pacheco, a professor of economics at AUT, told The Project.

"But now may be a good time to take stock and think about your current skills, your current interests and capabilities and try something new.

"I don't think you need to necessarily need to think about starting from the bottom because you already have a whole lot of general skills that you would have developed from past employment."

In order to help those recently laid off, the Government last week announced free apprenticeships in industries from construction to healthcare to community work as part of its $1.6 billion injection into vocational training post COVID-19.

And interest is clearly strong. Training organisation Competenz said it got almost three times the usual page views on the day the scheme was announced. 

Professor Pacheco says funding retraining programmes is a great start.

"There are a number of other things we can think about doing to make training more accessible and flexible in New Zealand, for instance, we could have access to student loans for those who are doing part-time or short-term courses. We could also think about developing a lot more micro credentials - these are standalone education products that deliver really specific skills and knowledge and are done so in a cost-effective and time-efficient manner," said Professor Pacheco.

One skill that is on offer under the Government scheme is beekeeping. 

Jessica Curtis is on an apprenticeship programme at Taylor Pass Honey in Wanaka. 

She says despite the odd sting, she loves working with bees.   

"When I was younger my grandad had hives on the farm, so I've kind of grown up with bees," she told The Project.

"[For] the last sort of 10 years the manuka market's really taken off - it's really getting promoted for what it is and how good it is - so that's been a really big boost."

But learning the tricks of the trade takes time, meaning her apprenticeship is invaluable.

"Beekeeping isn't as simple as it may look from the outside, it's actually quite complex," she says.

"I think it's important that you actually know what you're doing in order to do it properly."

And her advice to those keen to try it out?

"I'd just say give it a go, it's really important that there are new people coming into the industry, especially at times like these where we can't rely on overseas people to come in."

Curtis says she's "definitely getting used to being stung" but has "no regrets" so far.