Rural training organisation National Trade Academy welcomes the government’s push for closer ties with South America.
“From our experience there are great opportunities in these markets, particularly for the export education and rural sectors,” says managing director Craig Musson.
Since 2007 he has worked closely with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and New Zealand Trade & Enterprise to build partnerships with South American schools and rural training organisations.
Several hundred mainly Chilean students have since come to Christchurch to attend the National Trade Academy which offers courses in agriculture, equine, horticulture and animal care.
“Most are looking for practical hands-on experience which is something not usually available to them through the South American rural training organisations.”
In 2006, Musson was one 16 New Zealand business representatives to attend the P4 Trade mission to Chile as part of the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement.
It was during this trip that several rural schools and agricultural organisations expressed a desire for their young people to study in New Zealand.
“We already had a programme in development, so I came back, tweaked it to meet their needs, then went back to Chile to start partnering with various organisations.”
Bárbara Peña Barra and Esteban Pitripan Mancilla are among the current crop of 35 South American students studying at the National Trade Academy.
“It is a great opportunity for us because milking is big in New Zealand. We can take what we learn back to Chile and show others,” says Bárbara.
Esteban is equally pleased to be studying in New Zealand. “It is important for our future.”
The Chilean Ministry of Agriculture is funding the students to study full-time under pilot Study-to-Work visas that enable the students to work on New Zealand farms for up to four months once their studies are complete.
“The students and their parents are investing several thousand dollars to come here to study and live – so want some sort of guaranteed return on their investment. That’s why it is critical the students are able to put what they have learned into practice before they take their new knowledge and skills back home,” says Musson.
He helped to establish the pilot visas in conjunction with the Chilean government and New Zealand Immigration, and hopes they will be available to future groups of international students.
International students begin their studies at the National Trade Academy with six weeks of English lessons – mainly focused on everyday language, farming terminology, and slang the students may hear on the farm.
They then move onto the full agricultural study programme which covers a range of rural topics with a strong focus on dairying.
“South America has similar pasture-based farming systems to New Zealand and a growing dairy industry. The students are keen to learn about our farming methods – particularly around increasing productivity and the utilisation of technology on dairy farms,” he says.
Most of the students then move onto farms in the Canterbury and Mid Canterbury regions once the course is complete, with some going as far afield as Otago and Southland.
“We have no problem placing them given the lack of local staff and demand for keen, well-trained workers,” he says.
Musson continues to visit Chile twice a year to recruit new students and says there are emerging markets for export education in Colombia, Uruguay, Argentina and Brazil.
“The cost of international marketing is expensive, so the trips have to be well-planned to make sure we are getting the most out of it. We couldn’t achieve what we do without Liliana, our fantastic agent in Chile. We have just started working with another agent in Brazil where we are starting to get some good interest.”