Real-life experience for dairy students

Real-life experience for dairy students

Some 30 years ago Whanganui farmer Stephen Gudsell had a vision to find a way to help young people entering the job market acquire real and practical skills.
Initially he worked with the then Department of Social Welfare taking on small groups on to the farm, and teaching them basic dairying skills where the experience saw many of them subsequently find meaningful employment in the industry.
Today, Ag Challenge has evolved into a registered New Zealand Qualifications Authority training provider and since 1996 when this accreditation took place, expands beyond Agriculture to also deliver Building and Construction programmes and Animal Care and Technology.
Michelle Colson, Marketing and Branding manager at Ag Challenge says today the organisation offers Level 1 – 5 programmes across the three disciplines.
“We operate in a dynamic environment with courses evolving from year to year. We have fulltime tertiary students who have left school and range in age and backgrounds. We also provide STAR, Dual Pathways and Gateway units for high school students who gain NZCEA credits.”
Ag Challenge has a team of 15 tutors, plus 6 support and administration staff, and opens its doors daily to about 120 students interested in having hands-on experiences in Agriculture and the two other sectors.
There is a clear education pathway for students to follow, beginning with Level 2 Farm Skills and on through to Level 3 Milk Harvesting Technology, Farming Systems Technology and Vehicles, Machinery and Infrastructure programmes.
Students studying agriculture dairying skills experience what it’s really like to work day in day out on a very large dairy unit carrying 1200 cows, gaining real-world experience.
The carpentry and building site is located near the milking shed where students build relocatable classrooms.
Along with Whanganui delivery, a new teaching site has just opened in Wairarapa with Ag Challenge partnering Panorama Equestrian to deliver Animal Care Level 3 with an Equine focus.
It’s another exciting phase in the evolution of Ag Challenge with more to follow.
The Animal Care and Technology programme includes Rural Animal Technician and Veterinary Nursing Assistant programmes, both at Level 5.
“What’s great about the Veterinary Nursing Assistant and Rural Animal Technician courses is that they are actually delivered at a working vet clinic. This means students get to see events unfold as they happen.”

Real-life experience for dairy students
Ag Challenge offers students studying dairying experience what it’s really like towork day in, day out on a large dairy unit carrying.

 
These courses are a stepping stone from Level 3 Equine or Life Style Block or Companion Animals programmes so there is a study pathway. “We also imbed numeracy and literacy skills into our programmes.
It’s an effective way to support this learning because the work is practically based,” says Michelle. Stephen Gudsell is the director of Ag Challenge and remains involved in steering its governance.
And for Michelle who leads a busy life, the fact that Ag Challenge offers the opportunity to work with flexible hours is a real positive.
“All in all it’s a very focussed, positive and inclusive organisation which aspires to help students gain meaningful skills that will support their future career aspirations.”
Ag Challenge’s primary site is on Stephen’s farm at 312 No. 3 Line, Wanganui East.
Anyone interested in wanting to know more about the courses Ag Challenge offers can obtain a copy of the 2019 prospectus by downloading it from their website, agchallenge.co.nz or contacting Michelle at 0800 348 8215.
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