Agribusiness training equips dairy farmers with the business planning, resource management and financial management skills and expertise needed to run a successful and profitable agribusiness. Work undertaken by DairyNZ suggests that the industry would be significantly more profitable if farmers had better farm business management (FBM) skills.

DairyNZ, Dairy Training, Primary ITO, and Wintec, along with project managers Scarlatti are working together on the FBM Training Initiative. This Initiative aims to support farmers to build their agribusiness skills, through formal training, to create a productive, sustainable future for both themselves and the industry.

Now entering its third year, this collaborative initiative has gained significant momentum and achieved a number of successes in 2013-14. A key success has been the increase in new enrolments into the National Certificates leading to the National Diploma in Agribusiness Management, with 552 new enrolments in the 12 months to 31 May 2014 (c.f. 382 in 2012-13). This increase reflects the work being undertaken by Initiative partners on both demand side (attracting farmers into training) and supply-side (arranging training delivery and the funding for it) goals.

Within the supply-side, work has focused on maturing the new provider partnership that was formed in early 2013 between Dairy Training, Primary ITO and Wintec in the Waikato/Bay of Plenty/Taranaki regions. This model has now expanded to include different delivery models for the National Diploma in Agribusiness Management, including block and blended online courses which are now scheduled alongside the traditional face-to-face courses. The Initiative has also continued to work with the project partners and TEC to identify medium to long-term funding pathways, to match farmer demand. In the short-term the provider model piloted in the Waikato/Bay of Plenty/Taranaki regions has formed a model for conversations with other ITPs, this will enable growth of the Initiative in 2014-15. A range of different pastoral care approaches have been piloted in the last 12 months, these have had a significant impact on the completion rate of Diploma modules in the pilot region.

On the demand side, an agribusiness marketing and communications adviser was appointed within the Primary ITO and they lead a promotion group, comprising of representatives from each partner organisation. This group has planned and implemented a multi-pronged agribusiness promotional campaign. The cornerstone of this campaign is the Agribusiness Advocacy Network, comprised of alumni, tutors and other Diploma advocates. In 2013-14 our advocates have shared their Diploma stories at 103 farmer and rural professional events. Their presentations have focused on the value of the Diploma, the impact the learning has had on their businesses and the progress they’ve made towards their goals. A range of promotional activities have supported these conversations, including print, online and radio advertising, PR activities in regional newspapers along with a presence at fieldays and industry events.

We look forward to building on our progress in 2014-15 as the Initiative activities continue to move from ‘pilot’ to ‘business as usual’ for Initiative partners.