Tractor training academy seeks to fill COVID-19 labour shortage

So far about 18 people have completed courses at the academy.
So far about 18 people have completed courses at the academy. Photo credit: File

By Maja Burry of RNZ

A Waikato business has started a tractor training academy in response to the labour shortages being created by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The five-day courses run by Ag Drive near Cambridge are being supported by the Ministry of Social Development.

Ag Drive's Ben Harris said the department was funding the courses for those who had lost their jobs due to COVID-19 - as well as people on a benefit - as a way of getting more New Zealand workers into the agricultural sector.

There was a looming shortage of rural contract workers for the upcoming season because of the border being closed, Harris said.

Ag Drive was working with rural contractors and farmers with regards to their staff requirements for the upcoming season, he said.

"In the area around where we are there's over 100 jobs that we know, some of them are for skilled machinery operators, but at least we can try and fill some of those entry level positions."

The courses being offered covered basic tractor driving skills, health and safety, fatigue management and road rules, he said.

"We connect machines to the tractor and then are out in the field actually doing the tasks, cultivation task, mowing, raking, stacking bales things like the pre-entry tasks into rural contracting."

So far about 18 people had completed courses at the academy and more were enrolled for the coming weeks, Harris said.