2018 saw the 'official' launch of Agribusiness as an NZQA-approved secondary school subject.
After three years of concerted effort from team members around the country, the Agribusiness course was finally approved as an NZQA secondary school subject in December 2017, allowing the course to be rolled out to all secondary schools from the start of 2018.
For Columba and John McGlashan College, it is business as usual as we continue to collaborate on the course. 34 girls and boys comprise our two classes (Year 12 and 13), and they are making pleasing progress in their newly approved assessment standards!
One area of fantastic progress is the number of industry partners we have been able to secure to support the programme. Of particular importance is our growing partnership with Silver Fern Farms. They have pulled out all the stops over the past while helping us with mentoring programmes, providing guest speakers for our classes and Agribusiness Conference, and providing all the meat for the Conference dinner. Add to this a free cooking workshop featuring Vault 21 chef Greg Piner, conference packs and bags of goodies; the company has left us gobsmacked by their kindness and generosity. Speights Brewery and Speights Ale House also came on board for the conference and contributed in various ways for which we are very grateful!
As part of our commitment to practical and innovative learning, the students have been (and are going) on a number of trips around and about to experience real Agribusinesses. The Year 13 class recently sampled the water of the Taieri River at seven locations and conducted numerous tests (E.coli, nitrates and phosphates, clarity, salinity, temperature etc.) to ascertain the health of the river and whether or not the Brown Trout's future was in danger due to agricultural pollution and/or climate change effects. The trip also provided more of an understanding of the day to day work of environmental scientists.
Next week, the Year 12 class leave on a 3-day trip to Central to visit Mt. Difficulty (another fabulous partner), the Cardrona Whiskey Distillery and the Wanaka Lavender Farm, to gain insight into the establishment and management of these businesses. A trip to Invermay (AgResearch) later in the term will expose the Year 12 class to current research on methanogens (Archaea micro-organisms in ruminant guts) and how to reduce the amount of methane they produce (which contributes negatively to greenhouse gas emissions in New Zealand via cattle and sheep belching).
In addition to their classwork, the Year 13's have all been connected to an Agribusiness mentor for Term 2. They will visit the company (of their choice) and shadow their mentor for a few days to get a feel for the actual day-to-day job and the industry. Again none of this would be possible without the assistance of industry partners like Rabobank, Silver Fern Farms, The Otago Chamber of Commerce to name but a few.
While the course has enjoyed a positive start during 2017/8, much still needs to be organised and implemented to see Agribusiness reach its full potential as an 'innovative and industry-connected course' that attracts and trains tertiary capable secondary students to take their place in the Agribusiness communities of New Zealand.
To this end, we continue to dream of overseas excursions for our students to see what others in the world of Agribusiness are doing firsthand, and for ways to further establish ourselves as the premier Centre of Excellence School for Agricultural Science and Business in the South Island and beyond.
To apply for a place in the programme for 2019, please contact either Dr. Craig Preston at firstname.lastname@example.org or Mrs Suzanne Bishop at email@example.com for application forms.