Training provider continues to expand
The heart of Ag Challenge’s 30-plus year existence is based around dairying in the Okoia basin on the eastern banks of the Wanganui River and boarders onto the city boundary with Wanganui East.
Now a major provider of agricultural training, Ag Challenge was born from a relationship between owner/director Stephen Gudsell in the “Access Scheme” days with the then Department of Social Welfare, taking small groups of clients and teaching them basic skills around how to milk cows.
This relationship continued for several years with many clients placed into the dairy industry, going on to very successful careers.
In 1996 Ag Challenge was officially formed as an entity becoming a registered company, gaining registration and accreditation with NZQA in the same year.
This allowed Ag Challenge to formalise the education and training as the agricultural industry was requiring employees to have more formal qualifications.
“At this time a relationship was formed with Wanganui Vet Services (WVS) through Dr. Dave Barton to provide tutoring and specialist support, teaching the skills for the qualifications been offered,” says Peter Macdonald, director’s executive for Ag Challenge.
“It also saw the first tutor, Nick England, employed to deliver the theory and practical aspects of the agricultural qualifications.”
It was through the relationship with Dave Barton and WVS that the veterinary nursing course was established in 2000 which has continued to develop and evolve over the last 17 years.
In the same year, full-time carpentry training was offered providing an opportunity for people wanting to gain qualifications at level one and two. A pretrade/pre apprenticeship programme at level four was also offered.
“We mustn’t forget that one of the big secrets to Ag Challenge’s continued success is the current and past staff who’ve been part of the journey over the last 20 years or so,” says Peter.
“Along with the many stakeholders from industry who have supported us in taking graduates from our programmes.”
Ag Challenge provides training for people wanting careers or who are employed in industry and seeking qualifications acknowledging the skills they have gained.
The training is offered as off-job with employees attending class one day a week while carrying practical learning as part of their employment.
Based in Okoia, only 4.8km from the Whanganui CBD, Ag Challenge continues to offer training in agriculture, building/construction trades and animal technology programmes The operation now includes the utilisation of two dairy units milking 1200 cows and dairy run-off with 400 replacements, all used as training aids.
Focused on working with local secondary schools to deliver training, Peter says that over 200 students undertake agricultural training one day a week, providing them with insight into not only agriculture but building and animal technology.
“This give students real life experiences both on farm or in a veterinary clinic and even on our building site where students are currently building re-locatable classrooms. All training undertaken focuses on students being exposed to the most realistic environment as possible.”
The recent NZQA Targeted Review of Qualifications involved industry in designing new qualification resulting in Ag Challenge delivering the latest dairy focused agricultural programmes.