PMB Campus Hosts First PMA Agri-Food Career Fair
The Pietermaritzburg campus hosted a Produce Marketing Association (PMA) Agri-Food Career Fair – the first of its kind to be held in KwaZulu-Natal.
The Fair, one of three staged in South Africa annually, was organised by the Produce Marketing Association (PMA), an international trade association based in the United States which boasts member companies around the world.
A branch of the PMA, the PMA Foundation for Industry Talent, was founded in 2006 in the US as a result of the PMA recognising that education and training of young talent in the fresh produce industry was vital.
The Foundation aims to attract, develop and retain young, talented people in the fresh produce industry. The PMA in South Africa and the PMA Foundation have introduced several projects which aim to address the issue of human capital development in the fresh produce industry. One of these endeavours is the Agri-Food Career Fairs, held at the University of Pretoria, Stellenbosch University and now UKZN.
The Fairs exist to popularise agricultural studies and dispel the myth that agricultural qualifications ensure no more than a career in farming. The Fairs have contributed to stimulating an interest in ‘scarce skills’ fields of study such as pasture science, agronomy, soil science, horticulture, plant pathology and food science.
Various role players in the agricultural industry in South Africa have enthusiastically supported the Career Fairs, which come at an important time as tertiary training institutions, agricultural businesses, input supply companies, commercial farms and service providers continue to report how the unavailability of young people is affecting their businesses.
Exhibitors at the Fair included the KwaZulu-Natal Poultry Institute/South African Poultry Association, ZZ2, RCL Foods, Starke Ayres Seed, the Citrus Academy, South African Sugar Research Institute, the South African Institute of Agricultural Engineers (SAIAE), the South African Subtropical Growers’ Association (Subtrop), Sakata Seed, Rugani (Greenway Farms), Potatoes SA, Tongaat Hulett, SA Agricultural Teachers Association (SAATA), the Agricultural Research Council (ARC), Pannar Seed and Lima Rural Development Foundation.
The Fair was a great hit among young folk, with close to 1 000 students and high school learners visiting the marquee on the lawn in front of Rabie Saunders building throughout the day. Exhibitors provided information about bursaries, internships and careers to give students an idea of what opportunities await them once they have qualified in an agricultural field.
Tongaat-Hulett hosted 34 learners from Nkosibomvu Secondary in Tongaat, Shakaskraal Secondary in Shakaskraal and Umlulama Secondary in Hopewell. Learners from Masameni High School in Ixopo also had the opportunity to attend, as did those from Alexandra High School in Pietermaritzburg.
The Fair also featured a Teachers’ Lunch for high school teachers of Science, Life Science and Life Orientation where they were encouraged by various representatives of the industry to promote careers in agriculture and food production with students.
The Fair was a great success and the PMA and UKZN look forward to making it an annual event.