Endless job opportunities in South Canterbury's 'food bowl' economy

South Canterbury's "food bowl" economy means a New Zealand-wide initiative to teach primary school students about the red meat sector will be especially beneficial to the region.

An education programme funded by the Red Meat Profit Partnership (RMPP) and delivered by New Zealand Young Farmers saw 40 pupils from Timaru's Beaconsfield School recently visit a 380-hectare South Canterbury farm where they learned about job prospects in the primary industries.

"It's not just about shearing sheep and driving tractors," farm owner Bill Wright said.

"We work with lawyers, scientists, and accountants.

"The opportunities are endless."

Beef + Lamb New Zealand central South Island extension manager Laura Gray agreed there was an "abundance" of job spaces in the red meat sector, including in the business, supply chain, and science and technology areas.

"A lot of jobs that are needed are off the farm," Gray said.

Studies from the RMPP found agricultural sectors were in need of facilitators, resulting in the collaborative group organising free workshops and follow-up activities around the country to train aspiring facilitators, with one coming to Timaru on July 3-4.

The red meat sector would need an extra 40,000 workers nationwide by 2025 to keep up with people retiring or exiting the industry, as well as the growing number of opportunities, Gray said.

She was unsure how many workers would be needed by this date in South Canterbury, which has about 800 sheep or beef farms.

Stafford Personnel managing director Carol Newman described the region as a "food bowl" with job opportunities in industries such as dairy, fishing, and potatoes, not just the red meat sector.

"There's not a lot of food we don't produce through here," Newman said.

The region handled nearly every step of food production, from processing to exportation, she said.

A focus on food industries meant a lot of the work available was seasonal.

"There's a quiet few months in winter and then it starts picking up in August, going through to April."

Aoraki Development chief executive Nigel Davenport said the food processing and manufacturing sector had hired 5000 of the 25,000 people working in South Canterbury, making it the region's largest employer group.

"Alongside this our primary, transport and logistics, trades, and health sectors are all large employers - all of which provide a wide range of fantastic opportunities for employees of all ages," Davenport said.

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