When JaQuill Howard, a 17-year-old learner from Charleston Hill High School in Paarl, attended the launch of the Food For Mzansi Agri Career Fair, he was initially more than a little skeptical.
It was held during the shortened school holiday and, like many others, he had no prior interest in agriculture. Little did he know that agriculture was about so more than just physical labour.
Howard says he walked away with new perspectives. “I learned a lot about agriculture and farming, I always thought it was just about chasing animals and working in the hot sun, but you can have an office job too.”
Top exhibitors with virtual rooms
The 2020 edition of the Food For Mzansi Agri Career Fair is powered by VKB, Standard Bank, Stellenbosch University, AGRICOLLEGES international, Cotton SA, SAPBA, YehBaby Digital and a host of other top exhibitors. All exhibitors have their very own virtual rooms on agricareers.co.za. In these rooms, learners have access to a wealth of career-related information.
The career fair was launched on Thursday via an exciting live-streamed programme from La Rochelle Girls’ High School’s En Avant centre in Paarl in the Western Cape.
“It goes deep,” remarked Amron-Leigh Matthews (16) from Noorder-Paarl Secondary School. “There’s technology, food and so much more.”
Her classmate, Chelsea Smith (16), says she realised that she should be broadening her horizons in terms of future study and career possibilities. “You shouldn’t limit yourself. Every part of our lives revolve around agriculture. We need our farmers every day of our lives!”
From plant-breeding and drone-driven soil analysis to viticulture, economy to cotton-ginning, learners across the country are being introduced to the A to Z of opportunities in the agri-space. In the wake of covid-19 restrictions, this year’s event is held virtually, boasting a brand-new platform called agricareers.co.za.
‘Agriculture grows the future’
The portal, which will be updated frequently, was only launched on Wednesday, but has already seen more than 3 000 unique visits from the streets of Phuthaditjhaba in the Free State to Pretoria in Gauteng. On Food For Mzansi’s Facebook page, more than 8 000 people have already viewed the live-streamed launch of the career fair, with a further 530 viewing from agricareers.co.za.
Among the panelists at the virtual launch counted Jannie Strydom, chief executive of Agri Western Cape. He reminds learners that agriculture is what feeds the nation and grows the future. “As an extremely progressive sector, a career in agriculture offers many opportunities to learners who want to become involved in keeping our country’s food supply secure, fresh and healthy.”
Prof. Danie Brink, dean of the Faculty of AgriSciences at Stellenbosch University, described Food For Mzansi’s Agri Career Fair as “innovative and interactive”.
He says, “A wealth of information and excitement is shared and it speaks to our hearts since we firmly believe in and love agriculture. The contribution agriculture has made during this topsy-turvy year of 2020 has been absolutely magnanimous. One can rightly ask where we would have been without it.”
Agriculture is undoubtedly the backbone of our country’s economy, adds Brink. “We believe in the diversity of opportunities it offers, in their sustainability and the importance of this sector as a whole. With Food for Mzansi as partner we hope to bring this message to all!”
The A to Z of agricultural careers
Bernard Welman, assistant breeder at Limagrain Zaad South Africa, says Food For Mzansi’s event sparked much excitement throughout the South African Plant Breeding Association (SAPBA).
Through the virtual programme, learners nationwide are being introduced to the science and art of plant breeding as a profession “by showing what really happens behind scenes of every agricultural crop planted on farms.
“We want to inspire the young minds participating in the event to be aware of available opportunities and to show them that their time, efforts and knowledge will contribute to the improvement of food security in Mzansi.”
Cotton SA chief executive Hennie Bruwer says as an industry that supports the development of youth they are always excited to partner with Food For Mzansi.
“Agriculture is the only sector that showed positive economic growth during the covid-19 lockdown period. Looking at our drive to develop a total value chain from farm to fashion, the post- farm gate textile industry also provides ample career opportunities.”
Learners are also embracing the possibilities offered by AGRICOLLEGES international, a leading cloud-based e-learning institution.
AGRICOLLEGES chief operating officer Wynand Espach says, “By providing students with affordable, accessible and industry-relevant education and training in the fields of agriculture and related agri-industries, we aim to help address food security and unemployment issues in South Africa and the rest of Africa. Courses are offered at a quarter to a fifth of the cost of traditional tertiary education institutions.”
How to use the brand-new platform
For the next year, learners from across Mzansi have free access to agricareers.co.za. The website, built by YehBaby Digital, offers exclusive access to different virtual rooms – each with unique content. And best of all, new content and exhibitors will be uploaded within the next few weeks.
For example, room 1 is for those wondering “What career is right for me?” In room 2 there are video interviews with, among others, Portia Lepesa, Ryno Steyn and Jeremy Pienaar who work for the VKB Group, the top employer in rural Eastern Free State and rural Limpopo.
Winetech’s room is for those who are brave enough to choose a career in winemaking, viniculture and oenology, while the National Agricultural Marketing Council’s room is for learners who want to become economists.
- Check out agricareers.co.za for a complete list of virtual rooms.