Spreading success with new micro-credentials for the fertiliser application industry

“At our annual industry awards, we always ask nominees to list their qualifications and achievements,” says Rose Hyslop, Executive Officer of Groundspread NZ. “We found that those boxes were consistently being left blank. We have members with decades of experience but no formal qualifications. That’s what first got us thinking about micro-credentials.”

In October 2022, Hanga-Aro-Rau Workforce Development Council (WDC) began working closely with Groundspread NZ to develop tailored training for the nutrient-spreading industry. “One of the first questions was exactly where we fit as an industry and which WDC we needed to work with,” Rose says. “Our core function is in nutrient application trucks and transport, but we do the majority of our work on farms, so we operate in the primary industry space as well.”

To fully support their sector-straddling association, Hanga-Aro-Rau worked alongside Groundspread NZ to initiate and develop micro-credentials for their truck drivers, then connected them with Muka Tangata WDC to provide targeted support around fertiliser application. The nutrient application micro-credential developed in collaboration with Muka Tangata provides a further opportunity for industry professionals to have their skills recognised, and also enables those entering the industry to have a clear pathway to acquire the skills they need in order to succeed.

“A big motivator for us is the aging demographic of our workforce; we recognise the need for greater understanding and promotion of our industry in order to attract new staff to replace them,” Rose says. “We believe that these new micro-credentials will lift both the professionalism and visibility of the nutrient-spreading industry.”

The result of the WDC collaboration, Rose says, is a set of qualifications that feel created and owned by industry. “When we first started on this journey with Muka Tangata and Hanga-Aro-Rau, no one even really knew who we were because we’re such a niche industry. We quickly realised how committed they were to getting to know us. They took their time and asked a lot of great questions; we were really blown away. It’s so cool to be able to share what we do and to have both drivers and potential employers involved in the process of creating these micro-credentials. It’s been incredible to have all their voices coming through.”

Those discussions also led to a broader understanding of exactly what future training could include, Rose says. “One thing that rose to the surface was just how much we care for our workforce. From there, physical and mental health became part of the discussion. A lot of our drivers work alone and they can also be the only person a farmer interacts with in any given week, so there are definite learning opportunities there around nutrition, exercise and wellbeing that will help grow our people as humans, not just as workers. We were so focused on the hard skills, we might not have thought to include those elements without the input of both the WDCs. We’re excited to keep the dialogue going and we will be relying on their help to roll out these micro-credentials that we’re so proud of.”

As the sole employee for Groundspread NZ, Rose is tasked with looking after over 100 members from seven regions throughout Aotearoa New Zealand. Without support from Muka Tangata and Hanga-Aro-Rau, she says these new qualifications would not have been possible. “There is no way we could’ve done this without them. We don’t have the skills, time or expertise to be able to build something this amazing. We’re just so appreciative that they took the time to get to know us and guide us on this incredible journey.”