As South Africa’s unemployment ranks as one of the highest in the world, agriculture internship programme RecruitAgri is now enrolling graduates for the processing programme in the macadamia and avocado sectors.
According to the Quarterly Labour Force Survey (QLFS), South Africa’s unemployment rate in the first quarter of 2023 was recorded at 32.9% – one of the highest in the world.
RecruitAgri’s Jennifer More said the decision to launch the processing arm of the programme was made after they identified a definite gap in the industry for experienced packhouse and processing junior managers.
“Graduates with a more academic background in biotechnology, food science, engineering and quality control would suit the packhouse and processing environment perfectly. These are graduates who have had experience in lab and research work,” she said.
Graduates who are 25 and younger with a valid driver’s license are eligible for shortlisting, which is then followed by an interview process for selection.
She said the programme had a 50/50 intake of women and men.
Once selected, the interns spend 10 days in an induction programme, which includes quad bike training, leadership and management courses, PPECB (Perishable Products Export Control Board) training, palletisation of fruit, dispatching the final product and cold chain process lectures.
The first crop of graduates selected for the programme this year spent February engaged in fieldwork on macadamia and avocado operations before arriving at the packhouse. “It is so important that the students first get an overview of how to handle the fruit and nuts before they are processed,” More said.
As the processing season starts off slowly, the graduates began working on general maintenance, cleaning and preparation projects for what becomes a very busy harvesting season in both the macadamia and avocado industry, she added.
Now, with the harvesting season in full swing, the interns are responsible for moisture testing, receiving the fruit, and the processing and production lines as well as dispatch.
More said of critical importance was the partnerships RecruitAgri enjoyed with both macadamia and avocado farmers and the processors. “They provide the training environment and the transfer of the skills that are so critical for success, as well as the rotation to different departments within the packhouse or processing plants,” she said. Our Industry partners are crucial to the sustainability and growth of RecruitAgri and on the processing side SAMAC, SAAGA and PPECB are those main partners.
First started in 2018 by Lowveld macadamia farmers Guy More (Eswatini Plantations), Duncan Macgregor (Lochaber) and Kasper van Rooyen (Agristar Holdings) to develop junior managers in the agriculture sector, the programme successfully expanded its programme to KwaZulu-Natal and Limpopo, in 2021. And now, for the first time, 6 graduates are learning how to become junior managers in the fruit and nut processing sectors.
Since its inception 60 youngsters have qualified from the programme, with another 21 enrolled this year and 30 external graduates on the online programme.
More said agriculture was one of the sectors with exponential potential for youth employment and training. “Once the graduates have completed their training they enter the job market as junior farm or processing managers or assistant junior farm or processing managers, depending on the size of the operation where they are employed and how the budget is driven.”
The diversification of the job descriptions and availability widens every year, offering graduates different employment opportunities which are crucial to the agriculture economy, she said.
For further information, go to www.recruitagri.com or contact Jenny More at firstname.lastname@example.org