Just as we in the states have “college days” where we visit potential schools for our post-secondary educations to get a feel and see where our interests lie, so do New Zealand’s secondary students have “experience days,” with 52 of those students having just received the chance to check out Massey, the number one ranked university in New Zealand for agriculture and horticulture. These students, who attended this experience day during break with likely genuine interest, have a better idea if they want to study agricultural and horticultural areas, something that would likely benefit their home country, given its strong industries and opportunities in both areas.
With the students being either Year 11, 12, 13 (or 10th, 11th, and 12th grade), they had the chance to mull over study and career options while visiting the university’s farms, plant growth areas, and projects. “The idea is to get an overview at Massey. They get a small taster of what this could look like and know what it is really like to study. Often, they don’t know and university is only a name to them,” said Adina Foley, Massey’s account executive for the College of Sciences. “In their look around agriculture and horticulture, [the] students went to a plant pigmentation extraction laboratory and the equine research center, monitored pasture growth on a farm with stock, and checked out glasshouse research and outside plant growth.”
One of the greater things about an “experience day” is that while receiving information about study options, the students are without their teachers and arrive by either bus with an industry person, after being dropped off by parents, or after driving themselves. It is, more or less, the real beginning of their independence. AgFirst Consultants’ junior consultant in Hawke’s Bay attended the experience day and wanted to share her enthusiasm for study and the next step in the students’ lives. “Working life is a lot different, like crossing a large river, and when you get to the other side you realize it was just a tiny tributary to the main one, but it’s just another adventure.”
Agriculture and environment professor Peter Kemp said Massey graduates in horticulture and agriculture have become equipped with the right skills to join the workforce. “Horticulture and agriculture are some of [New Zealand’s] biggest industries, and we need more people going to university to get degrees in order to support them. These jobs are for managers, scientists, engineers, marketers, producers, and entrepreneurs.
“These jobs have excellent career prospects and involve working in some of the most exciting and beautiful places in the country,” Kemp says. By Kemp’s account, new minds equate new innovations, and one of the better provided examples ended up being how the farming approach to Manuka has changed over recent decades. “Once, we spent years cutting it down…Now there is money to be made from Manuka honey, but what else can it be used for? That’s the question we need answered.” Especially from potential new prospects like these 52 students.