Studying had taken a back seat for Waitoa contract milker Joel Lawrence due to on-farm and family commitments. Then he heard about a new approach to studying that made it possible.
Juggling family commitments, finding time to get off the farm, a dislike of too much paperwork and literacy and/or numeracy challenges are common barriers to learning for many farmers. A pilot programme being run in Waikato for the NZ Certificate in Agriculture – Level 4 (Dairy Farming) is aiming to remove those barriers.
The Waikato Institute of Technology/Dairy Training Ltd (Wintec/DTL) version of the course relies less on paperwork for assessment, has smaller classes, bite-sized modules and more one-on-one tutor/student time on- and off-farm.
Funded by Wintec, the course was developed by DairyNZ’s subsidiary company DTL, which also provides its tutors. The course got Lawrence back on board in autumn 2018 and now he’s on track to complete his Level 4 training this year.
Course lead tutor DTL’s Greta Baynes, says the Wintec course contains the same content as the equivalent Primary ITO course but it has other unique features.
“It’s topical to the time of the year and clearly aligned with seasonal activities on the farm. It has modules so students can ‘pause’ their study and re-engage when they’re ready.”
Lawrence loved that flexibility and the way tutors worked one-on- one with the students.
“I’m more of a practical person; I struggle with theory. So the way these modules were run, and the tutor understanding that, made a big difference.”
Baynes says the course also uses verbal assessments one-on-one between the tutor and the student, though critical paperwork such as reports are still included.
“So students can talk about concepts that they find difficult to write down. If we hear the key words we’re looking for, we know they have the depth of the knowledge needed.”
Course students also found plenty of opportunity to apply what they learned back on the farm.
There are no excuses really,” Lawrence said. “I’d say to others considering this course – just go for it.”