Leadership skills of students celebrated in red meat sector

Waikato teenager Greer Baldwin was probably the last person to see in herself the natural leadership skills others recognised immediately.

The 18 year old, who has just finished Year 13 at St Paul's Collegiate School in Hamilton and is heading to Lincoln University, still has to be coaxed to talk about those skills, but is in no doubt the Red Meat Profit Partnership (RMPP)-Young Farmers Leadership Pathway programme for secondary school students spotlighted and developed potential she didn't know she had.

Like Greer, many students who join the programme through attaining executive roles in a secondary school TeenAg Club, are oblivious to their natural leadership talent, says St Paul's agribusiness project curriculum director Kerry Allen.

"Most say they don't have leadership skills. Schools don't teach leadership but can help develop it in students and this leadership programme clarifies it for them. "

Greer, who will study agribusiness and food marketing at Lincoln next year, switched from Waikato Diocesan School for Girls to St Paul's in order to study under its new Gallagher Centre of Excellence in Agricultural Science and Business.

"I've always had a passion for agriculture. I still would've gone to Lincoln or Massey but I probably wouldn't have had the opportunities I've had through coming to St Paul's," says Greer, whose earliest years were spent on a sheep and beef farm.

This year she studied English, maths, ag-horticulture, ag-business and earth and space science, and was chairperson of St Paul's TeenAg Club.

TeenAg Clubs are a school version of Young Farmers, which is funded by RMPP and also DairyNZ through Transforming the Dairy Value Chain to provide students keen on agriculture with access to development support networks. There are 99 currently set up around New Zealand in secondary schools. Students who become club executives in roles such as chairperson, vice-chairperson, treasurer and secretary, can apply to complete the Leadership Pathway programme to harness and develop teenage leadership skills.

RMPP is a red meat sector and government collaboration under Ministry for Primary Industries Primary Growth Partnership. The aim is to drive sustainable productivity improvements in the sheep and beef sector to deliver higher on-farm profitability. Transforming the Dairy Value Chain is also a Primary Growth Partnership programme.

Greer this year completed the programme's three modules and was awarded a certificate. Modules include event management, communication, listening and action above the line. She intends to join Young Farmers at Lincoln University next year.

Greer was a "natural" choice for St Paul's TeenAg Club chairperson, says Kerry Allen, who has a Masters degree in environment education and a bachelor of parks and recreation management degree from Lincoln and was a Young Farmers member.

She offers insights into Greer's accomplishments this year that the modest teenager forgets to mention. They include being awarded a Rabobank leadership scholarship to study New Zealand's deer industry, addressing a deer industry conference and being a keynote speaker at a national agribusiness investment conference, meeting the Governor-General at an event at Taupo Beef, and being a Fieldays ambassador for St Paul's. She was also a young ambassador at the Fieldays' careers and education hub and helped to make a video promoting agribusiness as a career for girls.

Greer says all her opportunities and experiences this year seemed to convince other St Paul's students that agribusiness is worth a second look as a career and she expects the number of Year 13 girls who join TeenAg Club next year to jump.

"In the video we told our stories about our experiences and all the different opportunities there are in agriculture. It's not all about gumboots and grass, there's a lot more to agribusiness from the farmgate to the finished product and everything in between like management, marketing, business and science," she says.

"And TeenAg Club gave a platform to be outside class but still be learning about agriculture in a really interesting way."

TeenAg participants in the Leadership Pathway programme are set up with an industry coach to support them through the certification process and encourage them to succeed. Participants connect with red meat industry leaders to gain advice and experiences they can apply to their leadership development.

Student graduates of the leadership programme say the course provided them with confidence to apply their leadership skills to their TeenAg Club and the wider community, a better understanding of the red meat industry and potential careers, and a record with Young Farmers of their programme participation, which came in handy when applying for jobs and university.