Agribusiness decision makers, on the farm and in horticulture, have identified they want better business development opportunities for themselves and their team – and the Diploma in Agribusiness Management is meeting this demand.
The qualification delivered by Aoraki Polytechnic, in partnership with Primary ITO, uses new learning technologies to help students add meaningful capability to their agribusiness. The first intake of students is two months into their learning, which has been very different to the traditional class-room based learning that is the norm.
Mike Parr is one of Aoraki’s dedicated agribusiness tutors, working in Timaru, Ashburton and Oamaru. He has spent the first six weeks of the Diploma helping students gather evidence for the ‘ACCK’ process (‘Assessment of Current Competency and Knowledge’). Aoraki Polytechnic is the first organisation to use ACCK in agribusiness.
This innovative method identifies that many people may already be skilled in many areas of their business, and this enables students to learn what they need to learn, rather than starting from scratch. Each student compiles a portfolio of evidence, which they can then choose to put forward for assessment. ACCK is a process of identifying previous experience, knowledge and transferrable skills sets and gaining recognition. It is an excellent way to fill-in gaps in skill-sets.
“The purpose behind the ACCK process is to highlight to the student ‘Yes, I have covered this,’ or ‘There’s a whole lot of stuff that I don’t know’. It’s a navel-gazing exercise to look quite hard at themselves, at what they have learned, and what they need to learn,” says Mike.
To kick-start their agribusiness learning, students attended a one-day workshop which showcased the software programme they’ll use throughout the Diploma. The online learning platform called ‘Moodle’ allows the student to learn at their own pace, at a time that is convenient for them and with full access to all the resources they need to complete the study, including videos and regular communications.
Online learning allows students to spend as much time in their business as possible while, importantly, not losing motivation to study, since their tutor can keep an eye on their progress. This is well supported by in-class workshops and one-on-one learning which is tailored to individual needs.
“One of the students had been doing some class study previously – she found it frustrating that she had to go through all of the class material, even though she was competent in 70% of it. With the Agribusiness Diploma, she can attribute her previous learning to the qualification. She also only needs to attend a physical meeting with me every three weeks; the rest of it can be email or phone contact. We set goals for the skill areas she is lacking in. She loves the format and can go at her own pace,” Mike explains.
Another innovative tactic is that the Diploma allows students to learn from the industry experts in workshops. Cara Gregan, a local farmer, presented at the students’ first workshop which focussed on Human Resource Management. In charge of HR at Gregan Farms in Hunter, South Canterbury, Cara was a natural choice to promote discussion about HR issues as she has successfully implemented several changes in their agribusiness.
“Dairy farmers sometimes have bad reputations for looking after staff. We look at our staff’s drivers, and these aren’t always money. One of our staff had a baby recently – we’ve given him a 1.5 hour lunchbreak every day so he and his partner can spend time with their newborn.”
Registrations are taking place for the next intake at Aoraki Polytechnic . As well as human resources, students learn about business management, financial management and sustainability.