• EIT Apprentice blazing a trail in horticulture

EIT Apprentice blazing a trail in horticulture

Saffron Wilson thought she wanted to be a hairdresser, but soon realised that working outdoors was her passion and now the 22-year-old is blazing a trail for women in orchards.

Saffron is enrolled in EIT’s Free Horticulture Managed Apprenticeship Programme [Level 3 – 4] and has been working at the Mr Apple Brookfields Orchard near Hastings since January.

She is currently studying for an NZ Certificate in Primary Industry Operational Skills [Level 3], which she started in May, and will go on to study for her NZ Certificate in Horticulture (Fruit Production) [Level 3] and then Level 4 after that. The Programme, which runs for three years, requires students to attend lectures for twenty days each year with the rest of their learning taking place in-work.

Saffron says she is enjoying the EIT Programme, which fits in well with her work in the orchard. She is pleased that young women like her are entering the industry.

“When I came into this industry people look at me sideways when I said I was in the orchard industry because there's not many females involved. However, when I started the EIT programme, I was surprised how many females are studying horticulture and I would certainly encourage young women to follow me into the industry.”

She has already started doing this and recently addressed Napier Girls’ High School students at their Careers Day.

After leaving Havelock North High School at 16, Saffron tried her hand at hairdressing for just over four years, but soon realised she wanted more out of her job.

“I think I wanted little bit more variety and to learn more. I wanted to be outdoors, but I also wanted to learn about orchards.”

“It was a very scary decision, but I wouldn’t change it now to go back to working indoors ever.”

While Saffron does not come from an orcharding background, she did “grow up” around Te Mata Mushrooms in Havelock North, where her grandfather was one of the owners.

She is excited to be working in the apple industry which she believes has a bright future.

“I definitely think it's changing for the better.”

What she loves about her apprenticeship now is the variety.

“At the moment I enjoy pruning and there's a lot to it, but during harvest, I learnt how to drive tractors. Basically, every day is different, so I pinpoint one activity.”

As for tips on how to prune an apple tree, Saffron says you need a good eye.

“A good eye is important, but you also need to be trained by someone who knows what they’re doing and knows how to explain it.”

EIT’s Assistant Head of School, Primary Industries, Paul Keats, says the Horticulture Managed Apprentice Programme is proving to be a success.

“EIT is working with the industry to nurture talent and help young people learn on the job and gain a useful qualification.”

“I would like to encourage more people working in industry to become managed apprentices through this free Programme so that they can put their career on the right path. Discuss with your employer.”

People interested in the EIT’s Free Horticulture Managed Apprenticeship Programme [Level 3 – 4], can enquire here.