Our Projects

Below is a summary of recently completed and current projects along with proposals which are progressing toward the business case stage. If you are interested in knowing more about a project or proposal, or are keen to be involved, you can provide your contact details and an appropriate comment in the block at the bottom of this page. Alternatively click on the Portfolio Manager’s name to send them an email.

Recently Completed


Tupu Case Study

Portfolio Manager Lilla du Toit – ldutoit@foodandfibrecove.nz

As a result of almost a decade of significant research, trials and learnings, Te Hiku o Te Ika Iwi Development Trust has initiated a new and disruptive pilot, Tupu, to trial a local workforce development solution for the horticulture industry. The Tupu programme is a collaborative approach that is learner and industry-led, locally designed and delivered, regionally supported and centrally enabled. The programme’s key differentiation from other traditional group training schemes are the Iwi-Crown partnership, the cross-government and broader stakeholder collaboration, a Kaupapa Māori approach, and providing a holistic, supported network of cultural and pastoral care.

The Tupu programme is a ‘learn as you earn’ model and the first group employment scheme in Te Hiku and the horticulture industry in Aotearoa. Tupu aims to address the paradox between the large pool of unemployed and underutilised, with the high demand locally for reliable, resilient and skilled employees. This is a key driver of the Tupu programme.

The programme is demand-led and works directly with an industry, which historically has had a variable experience of successful employment schemes. It is delivered to and through a demographic that faces considerable multi-generational challenges and barriers to training and employment.

The Te Hiku o Te Ika Iwi – Crown Social Development and Wellbeing Accord 2013 (Social Accord)1 is a component of historical settlements between four iwi of Te Hiku o Te Ika (Te Hiku Iwi) and the Crown. The Social Accord has a shared vision that “the communities, whānau, hapū and iwi of Te Hiku o Te Ika are culturally, socially and economically prosperous”.

In the first year of implementation, despite unexpected challenges with the COVID-19 pandemic and a compromised avocado market, the Tupu programme has achieved significant success. At programme completion, of twenty places offered in the Tupu programme, fifteen Kaingaki Kāri completed the programme with industry work certifications, fourteen were qualified with a New Zealand Certificate in Primary Industry Skills (Level 2), and thirteen were off-benefit and in permanent employment. Evaluations and feedback, evidence the demonstrable impact on strengthening cultural identity, financial and employment confidence, self-advocacy, resilience and wellbeing.

Group Employer and Host Employers have grown into their functions over the year and demonstrated a significant shift in employer attitudes and behaviours concerning hiring local staff as a circular model. Host Employers have taken on Kaingaki Kāri as permanent employees. The collective stakeholder and co-contributing agency approach of the Tupu model have successfully provided proactive support, solutions and ongoing iteration whilst the programme is implemented.

This report describes the whakapapa of the Tupu programme, the approach, and the learnings, throughout the first year of a two-year incubation period. In addition, a summary and recommendations for further iteration for the maturity and sustainability of the programme are provided.

Funded by the FFCoVE, the Trust has engaged a research company and the final report was presented to the FFCoVE Board at the October 2022 meeting.

Click here to view the Tupu report.

Click here for more information on Tupu employment and training in the Far North.

Te Ao Māori Integration into the Level 3 Māori Cadetship Programme – Phase One

Portfolio Manager Doug Neilson – dneilson@foodandfibrecove.nz

Post-COVID there has been an increase in cadet and workforce programmes. The dominant existing ones are either focused on first-time learners at Level 1-2 or on employment outcomes. Phase 1 of this project sought to define what Te Ao Māori would look like for a vocational education and training programme (based on a future pilot using a level 3 Māori cadetship programme in the Bay of Plenty). This phase was completed in September 2022 and the project is now developing a business case to secure funding for a pilot to be run as part of the next cadetship programme. A research activity will be run parallel to the pilot cadetship to record what worked (and therefore should be repeated in future programmes) and what didn’t work (and therefore need to be revisited)..

Te Awanui Huka Pak Limited are leading this project to assess the outcomes achieved through that integration so that other programmes can leverage those practices which make a significant difference to learner outcomes. The programme is scheduled to complete later in 2023. 

Current Projects

Year 7 & 8 STEM Programme

Portfolio Manager Jackie Lynch – jlynch@foodandfibrecove.nz

Attracting students into Food and Fibre related training and education is an ongoing challenge. The objective of the Year 7 and 8 STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) Project is to expose senior Primary School pupils to the Primary Industry Sector across multiple disciplines:

  • Plant husbandry
  • Hydroponics
  • Technology (electronic measuring tools and robotics in particular)

Work Integrated Learning

Portfolio Manager Fiona Windle – fwindle@foodandfibrecove.nz

Currently two formal models of learning exist, the in-work model and the provider model. The Food and Fibre sector seeks to establish over time, Work Integrated Learning model(s) which provide greater flexibility for learners and enables simplified access to vocational education. Open Polytechnic, EIT, WITT, NMIT, NZ Young Farmers, Dairy Training Ltd and NZ Apples and Pears are all involved in this collaboration but it’s a large and diverse topic; there’s room for more to participate. The working group has developed a high-level Work Integrated Learning Ecosystem, parts of which – online assessment and online learning support – have been trialled through small pilot projects.

More of a ‘voyage of discovery’ than a defined project, the FFCoVE expects that opportunities to improve our understanding of work integrated learning will be integrated into any new project which involves work-based learning.  Areas of interest include:

  • Improving our understanding of the current state of horticulture qualifications within the sector and how they connect to each other, who the providers are and what is best practice delivery.
  • Identifying and investigating opportunities for both vertical and horizontal training options
  • Identifying what an end-to-end career plan looks like for learners throughout the continuum from pre-employment to post graduate with industry voice guiding development and ensuring consistency across all qualification’s content.
  • Researching the requirement for qualifications that are fit for purpose for both industry and learners.

As we learn more, we will be updating our Knowledgebase to promulgate those findings.

Attraction and Retention Research Programme

Portfolio Manager Doug Neilson – dneilson@foodandfibrecove.nz

A key aspect of improving vocational excellence across the Food and Fibre sector is to understand what attracts students to Food and Fibre sector-related training and workers to employment in the Food and Fibre sector. Once they are engaged in the sector as students or workers, we are also keen to understand how best to retain their interest so that they continue to advance their learning and become long-term employees or business owners.

Attracting students into Food and Fibre related studies and school leavers or career changers into employment in the sector has been a long-standing pursuit with, anecdotally, mixed results. The general feeling across the sector seems to be that, while there have been successes in some quarters, overall results have been disappointing despite much research and wide-ranging initiatives. Also anecdotally, even where attraction has worked, retaining those workers in the sector has been a challenge.

While there have been many studies of attraction for both students and workers, much less has been done about retention. It would be good to know why those previous attraction studies have not resulted in the changes expected (were the recommendations implemented but the outcomes fell short or were the recommendations not implemented at all?)  We are particularly interested in the relative merits of ‘push’ attraction (e.g. where young people are encouraged to consider the Food and Fibre sector through brochures, secondary school agriculture and horticulture courses, day visits to farms and orchard visits etc) versus ‘pull’ attraction (e.g. social media engagement with sector influencers, positive messaging on environmental outcomes through better practices, clearer link between farm/ orchard/ fishery/ garden/ etc. and food products in supermarkets etc.)

Regarding retention, we not only want to understand more about what influences this but are interested in piloting potential solutions to prove there are things the sector can do to positively influence retention rates.

There will be current initiatives addressing attraction and/or retention (we know of some already under way) and therefore a potential for duplication or conflicting outcomes which we would want to avoid.  We would expect to work with the successful respondent to identify and engage with these initiatives to mutual advantage.

The contract has been awarded to Scarlatti Ltd and the first deliverable has been delivered. The total programme is expected to take about 12 months to complete.


Degree-level apprenticeships are the equivalent of a three-year bachelor’s degree other than that:

  • The vast majority of learning takes place in the work environment
  • The subjects studied align with both the nature of work performed and seasonal activities which influence the student’s capacity to learn or provide best opportunity for delivery of a particular subject.
  • The employer or supervisor or other subject matter expert in the business provides most of the coaching (with support from the vocational education provider) and assessments are mostly either through attestation of student achievement in the work environment or review of the student’s journal of experiences, observations and findings in a particular subject area.

Degree-level apprenticeships have been delivered in the UK since 2015 with two honours degree programmes in Agriculture and Horticulture Advisors becoming available last year.  Otago Polytechnic has been providing a degree-level apprenticeship for their Bachelor of Engineering (Asset Management) for the last two years.

Developing a degree-level apprenticeship programme is a significant task involving a large number of organisations. To manage this, four workstreams have been established:

  • Governance and management
  • Provision
  • Industry
  • Administration, Cultural and Pastoral Care

The current focus is the development within the Provision workstream of strawman curricula for seven variations to the degree; Dairy, Beef and Lamb, Orchards, Market Gardening, AgriBusiness, Aquaculture and AgriTech.  These will provide something for the other workstreams to engage with to advance their development of associated processes etc.


Phase One examined both Group Training and Residential Training within NZ in some detail. The research was thorough and looked for global examples of both schemes, discovering that residential training is not a common delivery method on the global stage. Group Schemes are used successfully in some industries, particularly in Australia with a new Food and Fibre scheme established recently. Phase One took that research, analyzed it and suggested a model to pilot. The model is a hybrid of both residential and group training with the suggestion being a 30 week model that comprises; 3 weeks of residential pre-employment/12 weeks with employer A learning skills/3 weeks in residential/ 12 weeks with employer B. Throughout the 30 weeks the learner will complete a 30 credit micro-credential around self-management and wellbeing. The learner would be paid the training wage throughout the 30 weeks. In this Phase Two of the project, we are in the process of looking for hosts for the pilots.


Akongoue Pasifika Horticulture Programme Evaluation

Portfolio Manager Fiona Windle – fwindle@foodandfibrecove.nz

As a collaboration between the Tongan Youth Trust, the New Zealand Sports Turf Institute and the Ministry for Primary Industries, the Akongoue Pasifika Horticulture Programme currently runs across seven secondary schools in Auckland with high engagement among the Tongan community.  With a strong pastoral care element and a vision to guide learners through a career in horticulture, the Food and Fibre CoVE, along with the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment are co-funding an evaluation of the programme, to be undertaken by Scarlatti Ltd. The project will measure the impact of the programme on its participants, their communities and stakeholders, to ascertain its viability to continue running in the medium term.


Forestry Trainers and Assessors Research Project

Portfolio Manager Fiona Windle – fwindle@foodandfibrecove.nz

While many forestry and wood processing companies express concerns about the lack of trainers and assessors when needed, others have no such concerns.  Discussion on this topic had, until recently, failed to access funds to determine what the reality was across the sector.  Until now.

Te Uru Rākau – New Zealand Forest Service (TURNZFS) approach FFCoVE for assistance and a project proposal was approved by the FFCoVE Board on 20 October.

Research First Limited has been selected as the research provider and will shortly begin at study which will:

  • Investigate future solutions, specifically the degree to which the generic model of work-integrated learning is suited to the forestry and wood processing sub-sectors.
  • Provide insights into what could improve perceptions of training and assessment as a career opportunity and how these messages can be delivered.

Given that Christmas is rapidly approaching and that sort of break is usually counterproductive for research projects, the initial work will focus on developing a suitable framework for gathering information with surveys and in-depth interviews happening from late January next year.


Hawkes Bay Regional Skills Leadership Group (HB RSLG)

Portfolio Manager Jackie Lynch – jlynch@foodandfibrecove.nz

The FFCoVE is supporting the newly established HB RSLG as the Food and Fibre Sector is a major employer in the HB region. This project is completing the research for three of the five actions of the HB RSLG. The research scope is to complete a stock take of regional pre-employment programmes, looking at their scope of delivery and their outcomes. The second project deliverable is to look at both national and international evidence to inform the establishment of a co-lab hub in partnership with other agencies. Lastly the project will source current local, national, and international best practice resources and advice to enable a distinct regional needs analysis to be published annually.


NZ Apprenticeships in the FF Sector

Portfolio Manager Jackie Lynch – jlynch@foodandfibrecove.nz

Muka Tangata have expressed their desire to carry out a research project to ensure that the future shape of NZ Apprenticeships for Food and Fibre are well informed and thus well designed from levels 1-4.  Apprenticeships are not a new concept and have a long and valued history as part of the training environment within the food and fibre sector. They have been available for many years in a variety of industries using different variations of the earn-as-you-learn model, which may include block courses, evening courses, day-release courses, and both practical or theory assessments at levels 3 and 4. This project will examine what an updated or modernised version of apprentice training may involve.


Training and Career Framework

Portfolio Manager Jackie Lynch – jlynch@foodandfibrecove.nz

This Project is addressing the issue of the wide variety of programmes and associated learning and assessment resources that are currently on offer across the Food and Fibre Sector that are inconsistent in respect to learning outcomes, content, and quality. The current suite of qualifications does not provide a clear training or career pathway for learners entering, nor for those already working within, the sector. They do not link well with each other, nor does the content flow from qualification to qualification. As a result, employees struggle to get appropriate recognition of learning when they move between employers and/or across regions. The current complex array of programmes and courses on offer confuses both learners and industry. This project seeks to identify the Food and Fibre qualifications and programmes that are fit for purpose for industry and learners therefore enabling clear career pathways. Industry sees pathways aligned to nationally delivered programmes, with consistent content and industry-defined skills, as a positive solution for all involved.

FF Leadership Development Framework

Portfolio Manager Lilla du Toit – ldutoit@foodandfibrecove.nz

To design and adopt a food and fibre leadership framework with supporting system(s), which would provide a set of success criteria that other projects would use to meet the current and future needs of New Zealand’s food and fibre sector.

The supporting system(s) will be developed over several years by defining, developing, and delivering a model that allows the framework to be trialled, refined, inculcated, and scaled.  The alignment with other projects is what introduces the need for a leadership framework to provide an assurance that all of those other projects will contribute toward a whole-of-sector need. 

Left unchecked, the sector will end up with a plethora of disconnected leadership programmes that are not credentialed vocationally or academically, lack logical progression, and suffer from a variety of pedagogical value. Therefore, this project is designed to have impact across the food and fibre sector.


Non-Formal and Informal Learning in the Food and Fibre Sector

Portfolio Manager Lilla du Toit – ldutoit@foodandfibrecove.nz

Three parallel education and training systems exist within New Zealand’s Food and Fibre Sector: formal learning providing by vocational education providers; non-formal learning provided by a range of stakeholders, such as industry bodies, but which are not recognised by NZQA; and informal learning acquired “on the job.”

While formal learning is typically seen as the most appropriate way to demonstrate a specific level of knowledge and/or practical competency in a specified subject area, not all staff in the Food and Fibre Sector hold a formal qualification – nor are they necessarily interested in attaining one. On the other hand, non-formal and informal learning are widespread but their “face value” can be unpredictable and lead to challenges when learners change employers or industry or seek to obtain recognition of prior learning with the goal of engaging in formal qualifications.

If it is found to be sufficiently beneficial, there may be an opportunity for non-formal and informal learning to be consistently and confidently recognised across industries and employers; as well as reliably and fairly transferred to the formal environment in the Food and Fibre Sector. However, there are various reasons why no simple solutions have yet been found. More needs to be known about:

  • The breadth of non-formal and informal learning across sector
  • The motivations of learners to prefer these over formal learning
  • The value proposition for employers and learners for the recognition, crediting or credentialization of non-formal and informal learning
  • The potential unintended consequences of a making changes to the formal and non-formal / informal systems (e.g., potential negative impact of a recognition of priori learning scheme, cost to VET, harm to relationships across the sector)
  • If the formal system and non-formal and informal system are in fact reconcilable.

This project proposes a two-phase approach to evaluating the value proposition of integrating these learning systems; and gaining clarity on how it may be possible (if and where deemed valuable).

  • Phase one: Synthesise existing evidence and new market research to evaluate the value proposition of integration (to learners, employers and providers), and identify solutions to consistently and confidently transferring non-formal and informal learning to the formal system.
  • Phase two: Develop solutions based on the findings from Phase one (not the focus of this proposal) e.g., protocols and tools for recognition of prior learning or badging system, approaches to transition non-formal training opportunities into formal opportunities. This is dependent on Phase One identifying sufficient value proposition as well as potential solutions.


The following initiatives are being assessed with regard to alignment with the FFCoVE strategy, breadth of potential benefits across the sector, support from industry and providers etc. The FFCoVE is particularly interested to hear from organisations which might be interested in taking part in the development and delivery of these.

The Te Ao Māori Integration into Level 3 Cadetship is a three-phase programme of work:

  • Phase 1 was completed in September 2022 and delivered a report which outlined the Te Ao Māori protocols which might be considered for integration into study programmes for ākonga, the elements of the study programme that would be affected and the improvement in learning outcomes which are expected to result if those protocols were effective.
  • Phase 2 (which we are now developing the scope for) requires a working party comprising representatives from industry, the vocational education provider, Te Pūkenga, Muka Tangata, Ministry of Primary Industries and the Māori community to agree a consolidated business case. The business case needs to identify which organisation will be responsible for which part of the third phase and where the funding for that will come from. 

Assuming approval of the business case by the funding agencies, the third phase is to deliver a pilot study programme with those Te Ao Māori protocols fully implemented.  The study programme we have in mind is a Level 3 Certificate in Horticulture, delivered during 2023 predominantly by industry employers under the oversight of The Open Polytechnic as the vocational provider.


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