One of the country’s largest providers of agricultural training, Taratahi Institute of Agriculture, was recently placed into liquidation, leaving students and staff facing an uncertain future. In a series of short posts we ask a few of the hundreds of staff affected – many of whom have dedicated their working lives to teaching others and sharing their passion for agriculture – what their work in tertiary education means to them and the students they support. First up is Allan Roxburgh, the work experience coordinator at the Telford campus.
Allan never planned to work in tertiary education he fell into it after health issues meant he couldn’t keep farming. But sitting in the staff room at Telford while liquidators decide what to do next, Allan Roxburgh’s passion and love for his work is clear.
“It’s probably one of the best jobs I’ve had. I love it. And I’ve had some pretty good jobs.”
Allan is the work experience coordinator at Telford, a job he’s done for five years.
“I love getting out there in the morning. I love working with young people, helping them develop, seeing them build confidence, and I love seeing them building the relationships and friendships you build.”
The bonds built at Telford are strong – between students, with staff, and with the host farmers. Over Christmas several former students stopped the night with Allan on their way through the district. Sadly Allan and the students he’s so passionate about are currently in limbo – the institution they were transferred to less than 18 month ago is in liquidation.
Urgent work is going on behind the scenes to try to ensure that the provision in Clutha, as well as school provision and distance courses can continue. This is a complex process involving SIT,
TEC, Federated Farmers, the Mayor, local MPs, and the Telford Farm board. The aim is clear: keep the provision going.
And certainly that’s important to Allan. Not for the staff but for the students they are passionate about. “To take away the experience is sad. It’s a bloody tragedy those guys have nothing in front of them.”
“Farmers need Telford, and the proof is the high employment rate of our graduates. Most of them have jobs before they leave here.”
The final player in all this then is the New Zealand public and our Minister for Education. Moving the Telford provision to SIT will require funding. It will require a short term commitment to cover transition costs, and longer term to reform the way we collectively fund tertiary education so we can properly train the people who go onto to work on farms around New Zealand.
Allan’s message to the Minister is simple: “Please get it sorted as soon as you possibly can, so we can get some students in the door. Not just for staff, for the students who are on tenterhooks at the moment they are in limbo as well. We need an answer as soon as possible, we need it tomorrow.”
Allan does have some fear that some of the amazing Telford staff will go elsewhere in the time it’s going to take to get their pay reinstated. Many already have job offers. “My preference is to stay. It’s where my heart is. It’s my passion.”