Course participants and now full time workers Mahi Hauparoa and Bill Neilson.
Days of Playing Xbox and drinking coffee in between seasonal fruit picking work are hopefully over for Hawke's Bay man Bill Neilson.
At the end of last year, Mr Neilson was one of 15 mostly unemployed locals taking part in a 20 week orchard-based training programme being run by the Eastern Institute of Technology, with support from Work and Income, local iwi and large scale apple orchardist John Bostock (right).
Every morning Bill pulls on a high-vis vest and heads off to his full time job, rather than signing up for the unemployment benefit because the seasonal apple picking work has stopped. He has new tractor skills and a spray certificate which makes him useful. “The chance to get a full time job was great. I’m into my fifth month now and it’s awesome, doing something every day.”
The project was based on John Bostock’s orchard and the Level Three Fruit Production course had a mix of theoretical and practical work, with the aim of getting all participants full time work in the horticulture industry. John says large employers have a duty to find new ways to make local people employable and given opportunities.
Tutor Erin Simpson says with this course they’re given marketable skills and the students, who ranged in age from about 15 to 50, have all got work of some sort.
He says the success hangs around the orchard setting for the classroom. Any theoretical component of the course was immediately backed up by practical work. “So perhaps on a Monday when there wasn’t the motivation to do class work we could go out and do practical things, coming back to do the class room stuff later. Many are kinaesthetic learners so this system suits. “
Bill Neilson says it was hard going back to the classroom but he was so sick of being laid off between jobs he was happy to stick with the learning. Classmate Mahi Hauparoa was the same. An erratic work history was getting to him. “I love been able to do things with my girls now, buy things, which I hadn’t been able to do, that was a big one for me.”
Jason Cunningham, another graduate, says everyone without work should get off their backsides and do a course like he did. He did it along with his 23 and 25-year-old sons who’d never had stable employment. Now they’re all working. “My sons had awesome computer skills, so they were able to help me.” He says he’s extremely grateful for the opportunity John Bostock and EIT has given him.
For Bill Neilson there are no limits as to where he can get to in the apple industry. “You can go as far as you want. Like they say, I might want John’s job. Then I’d be driving around in a Mercedes like him.”