The story behind Agribusiness in Schools

// Staff and Training

The Agribusiness in Schools programme is showcasing agricultural career pathways to over 4,000 secondary school students nationwide each year. Beef + Lamb New Zealand is a proud partner of the programme since its inception in 2014.

image of olivia weaterburn and guy nathan


The Agribusiness in Schools programme is showcasing agricultural career pathways to over 4,000 secondary school students nationwide each year. 

The programme is offered at over 120 schools nationwide (urban and rural) and is designed to prepare students for careers in the primary sector. 

The programme is a collaboration between the Ministry of Education, NZQA and the primary industries.  

Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ) have been a proud partner of the programme since its inception in 2014 and recently joined in on the 10-year anniversary celebrations.  

In a recent episode of B+LNZ’s Scene + Herd podcast, we had a chat with some of the key figures behind the Agribusiness in Schools programme.  

We were joined by John Jackson, a passionate advocate for agricultural education and a founding member of the programme, and Hon Nathan Guy, former Minister for Primary Industries. We also caught up with Kerry Allen, the Agribusiness Project Curriculum Director, to discuss the programme’s development and its significant impact on students across New Zealand. We  heard first-hand from a current and past student on their experiences participating in the programme. 

Addressing the need for more career pathways into agriculture 

The Agribusiness in Schools programme kicked off in 2014 at St Paul’s Collegiate in Hamilton, driven by parents and industry members who saw a lack of career pathways into agriculture.   

John Jackson, who serves on the board at St Paul’s Collegiate, says there was an obvious gap in the education system. 

“There were a number of schools that were trying to teach agriculture, but it was all very independent, wasn’t ambitious and wasn’t encouraging young, capable kids to really look at the industry going forward. That was the opportunity to drive a course that had academic rigor in agriculture,” he said. 

Being the only board member from an agricultural background at the time, he says “the challenge became personal.”  

Thanks to John and others' efforts, the programme has been a great success, reaching more urban schools than rural ones—an outcome John considers a massive win for the sector! 

Hon Nathan Guy agreed saying, “This programme allowed a great stepping stone to get our urban cousin involved in agriculture. If you think about how sophisticated the primary sector is now with robotics, environmental scientist and the list goes on, we need some very smart brain to drive us forward into the future.” 

Industry collaboration and Government support 

Hon Nathan Guy supported the programme from the beginning and played a crucial role in propelling the initiative forward. During his time as Minister for Primary Industries, he brought the programme’s potential to the attention of officials in Wellington, opening doors for its development. “It has gone from strength to strength,” says Nathan. “It’s a trailblazing initiative across New Zealand’s education system, and I believe it has the potential to grow even more.” 

A significant factor in the programme's success has been the involvement of industry partners like B+LNZ and DairyNZ. These partnerships have not only provided crucial support but have also made the initiative industry-led, which is quite unique in the educational landscape.  

B+LNZ saw the growing demand for skilled workers in the primary industry and recognised the opportunity to collaborate on something that aligned perfectly with our goals. 

Olivia Weatherburn, B+LNZ’s National Extension Programme Manager says this collaboration aligns with B+LNZ’s goals of fostering and championing education and building a strong future workforce in the primary sector.  

“By investing in the next generation, we aim to ensure the sustainability and growth of our industry. It's crucial for students from all backgrounds to understand the significant impact that farmers and growers have on our country and food production.” 

Shaping the curriculum 

Kerry Allen, the curriculum director for Agribusiness in Schools, has been instrumental in shaping the programme. Coming from a rural background and with extensive experience in agricultural and horticultural science education, Kerry has tailored the curriculum to meet the needs of the sector.  

“The overarching ideas in the curriculum focuses on future-proofing, innovation, business and finance management, and the science behind why we do things in the value chain,” she explained.  

The programme now offers a comprehensive education that complements tertiary studies and opens doors to a broad range of career opportunities in agriculture. 

John says, “It has been an absolute privilege to be involved and I get a lot of satisfaction seeing young people taking up the opportunity and getting into this wonderful industry.” 

Current and past students back the programme 

Edward Buckley is a current agribusiness student based on a sheep, beef and dairy farm in Te Kuiti. He said there are students in his class that have never stepped foot on a farm. 

Looking at doing an Agricultural Science degree at university, he recommends the course as a really good pathway to studying any business-related degree at tertiary level.  

Past Agribusiness in Schools student and self-proclaimed ‘town boy’, Sam Howard is now working for Silver Fern Farms as a Commercial Supply Chain Graduate in Dunedin. 

Sam said the course gave him a good foundation to later complete his Bachelor of Agribusiness at Lincoln University. 

Get your school involved 

If you're interested in bringing the Agribusiness in Schools programme to your local school, there are several ways to get started says Kerry. 

Often, the subjects offered in schools are driven by student demand. Students, parents, or farmers can speak to school senior management about the benefits of the programme and express their interest. Whether it's incorporating a single standard into an existing course or offering the full curriculum, your voice can make a significant difference. 

“We have worked with students and schools to do pitches to their senior management to try get the subject up and running and they have usually been very successful,” she said.  

Learn more 

To dive deeper into the Agribusiness in Schools programme and hear more from John, Nathan, and Kerry, check out the full Scene + Herd podcast episode on B+LNZ’s Knowledge Hub.

For more information about Agribusiness in Schools, visit their official website.

Follow the programme’s social media: Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Tik Tok