What does the future hold for our children?

B+LNZ Director Kirsten Bryant reflects on the varied career pathways available to today's young people - whether they plan to stay on the farm or work elsewhere in the industry.
Friday, 18 November 2016

Our kids – aged 11 to 15 – are known as “Gen Z”, “ iGeneration” or “Gen Tech”.

Born this century, they are growing up in a world where everything is possible and the main channel of communication is the internet. The wider global backdrop is financial and social instability and information overload. Their keen interest, knowledge and opinion on the US election process and outcome has astounded me – when I was 11, ABBA was about as global as I ever got! As adults, Gen Z will need to be ever-adaptable, flexible and resilient – and have the skills to deal with the unpredictable.

Careers of the future

They say that today’s school students (my Gen Zs) will average five career changes and 17 jobs during their working life – many of which haven’t even been invented yet!

Google tells me these future jobs include privacy consultant, corporate disrupter, big data doctor, microbial balancer and productivity councillor. (You read it here first.) 

Prompted by some of my farming friends and family – whose children are making decisions about their pathway post-secondary school – we’ve been talking with our own children about what their future might look like. Being part of the sheep and beef industry is a common thread, but the pathway to a career in the sector is not as clear as it used to be. For those not going directly into the farm business, there are decisions about what to do next.

Skill diversification

I believe today’s young people should develop a base capability – that could be science, agriculture, IT or commerce, for example. Then team it up with something that can add diversity to the base. Like learning Mandarin or specialising in policy development. The base qualification allows them to be agile in their career decision-making, while the add-on differentiates them and opens up other options.

Whatever career they choose, the opportunities to be part of New Zealand’s food production sector are immense. Farm kids will always be farm kids. They will carry into adulthood the inherent values, work ethic and problem-solving skills nurtured in their childhood. And, while the day-to-day operation of the farm may not appeal or be an option, you can be sure their contribution to our sector will be significant. As a farmer and parent, I’m excited at the prospect.

Kirsten Bryant is Beef + Lamb New Zealand’s Western North Island farmer director.