Exploring opportunities in an agricultural science career

Senior Waikato high school students with a passion for science got a taste of what a career in agricultural science could offer at an interactive workshop hosted by AgResearch, DairyNZ, LIC and the University of Waikato last week.

This was the second annual DairyNZ Year 13 Science Career Day, which aims to educate senior science students about the many and varied career opportunities within New Zealand agriculture.

“We have found a real lack of awareness in both secondary school teachers and students about the science career opportunities within the dairy-related sector,” says event organiser DairyNZ Industry Education Facilitator Susan Stokes.

“Ensuring that agriculture, such an important driver of the New Zealand economy, has the science talent it needs for continued innovation is vital. It has been very pleasing to have had such a fantastic response to this year’s event from students and teachers alike. When a student writes on their feedback form they’d like to do it all again to learn more, you can’t ask for a better response than that.”

Forty students from 16 Waikato secondary schools took part in a variety of agricultural science activities, spanning pasture to plate. Soil assessment, pasture growth, nutrient leaching, artificial breeding, animal productivity and health as well as meat science were demonstrated by scientists from AgResearch, DairyNZ, LIC and Waikato University’s Earth Sciences department.

AgResearch food technologist Dr Mustafa Farouk took part in last year’s event and returned this year to introduce this year’s attendees to meat science.

“It was wonderful to talk to such enthusiastic young people about our work,” he says.

“For many of them finding out about the variety of science expertise required by the industry, as well as the different career pathways you could take, was a real eye opener.”

DairyNZ and AgResearch Science Intern Charlotte Robertson presented her personal journey into a career in science at the event’s afternoon session.

“It was great to see how many of the students came from non-farming backgrounds, yet were still keen to come and explore the opportunities in the dairy sector,” she says.

“Having grown-up a ‘townie’ myself, and ending up in dairy science almost by accident, it shows that you don’t need to grow up on-farm to end up working in the industry. Events like this provide students with more of an awareness of what is out there when it comes to making a decision about what to do after they leave school.”

This year’s key note speaker, Waikato University scientist Dr Megan Balks, talked about her path into a career focussed on the science of soils.

“As the world strives to feed a population of nine billion people, agricultural-based science has never been more important,” she says.

“A career in this field of science has taken me on a journey filled with adventures that I never dreamed were possible. We hope we have inspired the students with our personal stories, infected them with our passion for this industry and give them an insight into the wide range of options within a career in agricultural science.”