Discover the dynamic world of the primary industries

There’s an exciting future in the primary industries if you’re prepared to grow your career and help increase New Zealand’s reputation for productivity, quality and innovation.

Explore diverse opportunities

Businesses in the primary industries work with natural land and water resources, mainly to produce food, beverage and fibre products for consumers around the world.

These businesses span a range of sectors, including agriculture, aquaculture, agribusiness, research, forestry, manufacturing, horticulture and viticulture. They’re very important to New Zealand, with primary production and processing generating a big chunk of our export income. Together they’re also a major employer, with 1 in 6 people working in these industries – and 50,000 more are needed by 2025!

Because these businesses are also continually evolving and adapting to a changing landscape, you’re able to choose from a diverse range of exciting and rewarding career opportunities.

Work in technologically-focused workplaces  

There’s a revolution happening in the primary industries. The reality of climate change and the increasing pressure on natural resources means these industries are embracing technology and innovation to improve farm productivity and efficiency. To meet the demands of this changing workplace, jobs will become more technologically advanced and specialised.

This is leading to a trend away from land-based roles to more technical and scientific roles in offices and laboratories. As the primary industries become more hi-tech, demand is also increasing for professional services like research, IT, engineering, rural consultancy, marketing, human resources management and financial services.

Even those closest to the rhythms of nature, the farmers and orchardists, are morphing into agribusiness managers looking after large-scale corporate farms. They’re increasingly using sophisticated technologies to improve production, automate work and reduce farm- and factory-based labour. Have you seen the clever kiwifruit harvester robot flexing its arms to pluck ripe kiwifruit from the vine? This is a snapshot of the future of the primary industries landscape. 

The transition to more technological workplaces will see roles that have traditionally not required formal qualifications being upskilled. There’ll be more emphasis on higher-skilled jobs, and opportunities to work in exciting roles within the primary industries have never been greater. You might like to consider working as a researcher, food technologist, farm manager, agricultural consultant, veterinarian, production planner or robotics engineer (the kiwifruit harvester is being developed here by Kiwi engineers).

Whether you’ve grown up in the city or the country, there’s a role for you in the primary industries.

Create a productive and sustainable future

There are challenges the primary industries need to face if they are to continue being productive, and you can be involved in finding solutions. If you want to help feed a growing world population, build a sustainable future, or solve pressing problems like the effects of climate change, there’s a place for you in these industries.

We make over $37 billion a year in exports and there is growing international demand for our products, but we can only continue to be productive if we reduce our environmental impact and build sustainable practices. This environmental focus is seeing the number of courses linked to environmental sustainability increase, and jobs like sustainability manager and environmental co-ordinator emerge.

Get qualified and be part of a skilled workforce

If you want to be part of creating sustainable solutions for the primary industries, a higher qualification will help get you there. By 2025, the need for people with formal, post-school qualifications is expected to increase to 62 percent of roles in the primary industries. An estimated 44 percent of employees held these qualifications in 2012.

Growth in these dynamic industries will be in technically skilled roles for those with degrees and diplomas in science, technology and engineering. But there’ll also be opportunities if you have skills in areas like economics, finance, planning, social science, human relations and marketing. That’s because many businesses in the primary industries are expanding. Keeping pace with technology and being more innovative is increasing the need for people to work in a range of supporting roles.

Many of these jobs are to promote and ensure quality products reach our customers around the world. Consumers are becoming more discerning and want assurance that the food and fibre they buy is produced to a high standard of animal and human welfare, food safety and environmental sustainability.

Whether it’s telling the clean green story from pasture to plate, being involved in the supply chain to ensure food reaches customers fresh, or adding value to resources such as wool and timber, there’s a place for you in our primary industries.

Be an innovative entrepreneur

See yourself as a budding entrepreneur? Your technical, creative and business nous is valuable in the primary industries, as it’s the cutting-edge new products and solutions that’ll earn us more export dollars.

Our $37 billion of exports generates $250 billion in international markets because much of it is raw materials sold direct and processed overseas. So there is lots of opportunity for us to add value to our products and increase our earnings, much of which will come from providing our global customers with niche or innovative new goods. It could be you who helps increase New Zealand’s reputation for quality and innovation!


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Next steps

If you need help with your career decision making, you can contact us for expert career advice between 8am and 6pm every week day, for free.

  • Call us on 0800 601 301
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  • Talk to your career adviser about work experience or Gateway placement

Updated 9 Oct 2019