New rural contractor employee Robin Peters has come full circle with agriculture. Having started out in farming as a young man, he’s now working locally in the Te Anau basin with Steve James Contracting after graduating from the 6-week Rural Contractors programme at Telford.
Initially farming with his father and brother at Blackmount, by the late 1980’s Mr Peters was Head Shepherd at Wairaki Station in Western Southland.
He’s retrained a couple of times throughout his career, beginning in 1995 when he headed to Southland Polytech for a couple of years to gain a qualification, and then worked there in admin for a while before becoming part of the IT team.
“From there I spent a couple of years at the Hospital and then Geni for about three and a half years. I moved to Manapouri and began working for Real Journeys/Wayfare about eleven and a half years ago”.
Lockdown hit the tourism industry hard in the Fiordland region and on being made redundant, Mr Peters started looking for something else to do. He had noticed SIT/Telford offering a course in Agricultural Contracting and one of the managers at Real Journeys sent him the link to the expo that was being held in Te Anau, so he signed up.
He attended Te Anau’s Ag Redeployment Expo in June 2020 and reconnected with people he’d known previously in farming. For him, he said signing up seemed the logical thing to do.
“At the expo I got to meet a few of the contractors personally. Some I had known of, or knew”.
“I had had some experience with what was going on with my farming background and contractors were looking for jobs (to be filled), so it was a good match in my mind and the course would allow me to update and increase my knowledge”.
Mr Peters said he didn’t have to do the course, having received his job offer prior to going to Telford, but he knew if he updated his skill set he would be the best he could be for the job.
Things have certainly changed in farming since the last time he was actively involved in the sector. Mr Peters took the opportunity to increase his knowledge, as well as train for possible job openings in the future.
“There was a considerable difference in size and how things worked compared to what I was working on when I left farming”.
During the course he learnt about the larger machinery that he was likely to be working on.
The other thing he knew little about were the tracks, rollers and forklift machines. He said it was great to get an understanding of how they worked both in theory and in driving them.
Mr Peters was brought up-to-date in fatigue management, rules around driving tractors on the road and various other current health and safety standards. He also took the opportunity to do a logbook course in case he ended up driving trucks.
He said Telford was great, his only complaint was the abundance of food!
“Five meals a day was a bit much but it was great to get looked after the way we were”.
His group and the instructors all got on pretty well during the course and that made life easier.
“The instructors especially were very patient. I hope they can keep that up for the rest of the courses. I did learn a lot (what to do and not to do) by listening to the instructors, doing what they said and watching others”.
Mr Peters said one good thing was that he noticed was how some things came back to him fairly easily, because of his previous experience in farming. The most rewarding aspect of Telford was the increase in knowledge and skills he gained.
“Coming out at the end of the course increasing my knowledge and skill set was the most rewarding. The object was always to get to the point where a contractor would find the skills I had learnt useful and that I would not be a complete novice”.
Mr Peters was very fortunate to have been offered his job prior to attending the Rural Contractors Course. He said in some respects he may not have needed to do the course and he was never asked to, but he wanted to repay the faith his new employer had shown in him, by retraining and having the most up-to-date skills and knowledge for the role.
Mr Peters hopes to continue on with seasonal work in the rural contracting sector and that this will see him through the next few years. He’s relaxed about seeing what comes up in the off-season in terms of other work opportunities.
“In the immediate future I have a job for the next 6-7 months so I intend to make the most of that”.
“I would like to say SIT/Telford, HWR, the contractors, the instructors and the firms that loaned the plant for us to train on, deserve the utmost thanks. It was a great course to be on”.