Food & Fibre Cove

Posted By HBFA | April 23, 2024

Elevating the Fruit Growing Industry with Skilled Workforce Development

Announced by the Minister of Education in 2020 and launched in March 2021, Food and Fibre Centre of Vocational Excellence (CoVE) is an initiative of the Food and Fibre Centre of Vocational Excellence Society Incorporated. Members of the Society include key industry organisations (often referred to as peak bodies), employers and training providers from the food and fibre sector. Food and Fibre CoVE invests, through research and innovation projects, in the transformation of vocational education and training for our talent pool, to enable Aotearoa New Zealand’s food and fibre sector to thrive.

Creating and retaining a capable workforce is no easy task. It requires resourcefulness, some courageous and innovative thinking along with targeted funding, but that’s where Food and Fibre CoVE shines. Not only do they identify opportunities within the food and fibre sector, but through research, insights, and continuous workplace learning, they, along with their partners, seek out and successfully craft solutions.

Food and Fibre CoVE have a game plan that includes a number of key moves:

This game plan will ensure that industries, like horticulture, keep attracting and retaining skilled workers, helping organisations to evolve, grow and gain a competitive advantage.

New Training and Pathway Initiative for Fruit Growers

Like various other industries in New Zealand, fruit growing is facing difficulties in attracting and retaining talent. Often, the challenge goes beyond finding the right employees and lies with the employer’s reluctance to invest in new hires and training, due to the inherent risks and costs. The reasons are not always as straightforward as they first appear. This is where there is an opportunity to consider a new approach.

Food and Fibre CoVE are about to undertake a pilot programme where a Group Training Organisation (GTO) oversees the recruitment and employment of the apprentice or trainee for the length of their apprenticeship or training programme. This apprentice or trainee is then contracted to host businesses that cover their wages.

This innovative approach aids the employer in multiple ways. The GTO manages all recruitment operations – including screening, interviewing, reference checking and drug testing. It also oversees human resource management, dealing with payroll activities, training bookings, and handling legal and employment issues.

The best part of this arrangement is the flexibility it provides to employers; they can return the trainee under certain circumstances, if conditions are met, like a downturn in work, unsuitability, or a change in business conditions. This strategic approach effectively removes the associated hurdles of managing an apprentice or trainee, letting the host business instead focus on their operations. In a nutshell, the group training model de-risks the taking on and training of new talent in the workplace.

The first pilot is due to start mid-year and is expected to run through to early 2025. The pilot will also be informed by other key projects that Food and Fibre CoVE are currently working on, including:

Stay updated on all projects by following Food and Fibre CoVE on LinkedIn, or visit www.foodandfibrecove.nz for more information.


If you want to know more about Food and Fibre Cove, please email Chief Executive, Paul Hollings, or if you want more information on the new training and pathway project, please email Portfolio Manager, Viv Bruin.

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