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Sort It Careers – Food & Fibre Edition 2021

What did the first sector specific Sort It look like?

When: Thursday 6 May 2021
Time: 10am – 7pm
Where: Conference & Function Centre Palmerston North (Upstairs floor)

For 2021, Sort It Careers moved to a series of sector focused, bespoke events that really highlight significant sectors of strength and growth for Palmerston North and Manawatū in response to demand for more meaningful engagement and to support the significant growth trajectory our region’s industries are facing.

Given that New Zealand AgriFood Week was taking place at the beginning of May, we didn’t want to miss the opportunity to hold our very first sector specific event, the ‘Sort It Careers – Food & Fibre Edition’ during the Week, focusing on the many career paths this sector offers, from business and technology, through to horticulture, environmental science, innovation, engineering, finance, management and more.

“The region is on a significant growth trajectory, and we need more talent. Sort It is one of the ways we can help grow the talent pipeline to support our key sectors to plan for the future, while ultimately retaining some of our talent pool here by connecting them with the many career opportunities on offer in these sectors,” says Sara Towers, Central Economic Development Agency (CEDA) Talent and Skills Manager.

Held on May 6 2021, this sector focused event ran across the whole day, and featured a lineup of inspiring and engaging key speakers, debates, and panel discussions, as well as a select few exhibition stalls. Attendees engaged with the many career opportunities and experiences on offer in food and fibre, showcasing innovation, diversity and the breadth of career options in and around the agrifood industry.

Attendees participated in interactive workshops, facilitated by industry and business leaders, where they’ll gain key connections within the industry, and explore training, education and career opportunities to help choose the next step in their career.

Building on Manawatū’s position as a global agrifood hub and leveraging Palmerston North’s strategic positioning as the food innovation capital of New Zealand, this fresh and high impact approach supports the sector to plan for the future and engage with the next generation of talent.

Sort It is delivered by CEDA with a range of sponsors and partners.


With COVID-19 cancelling the ability to have the traditional in-person Expo in 2020, the event moved entirely online – holding the first careers expo event in Aotearoa since COVID-19.

Following the online edition, the feedback received suggested that the move to a more tailored, sector specific approach provided more meaningful engagement and discussions for our future talent pool. So we adapted and pivoted like everyone else and are were excited to announce our first sector specific event, the ‘Sort It Careers – Food & Fibre Edition’.

We felt this required further engagement with our stakeholders to understand the benefits, challenges and opportunities of Sort It, so that we could ensure that future events provided real value for students, talent, businesses and training providers alike. So, through workshops, focus groups, and an online survey we got feedback and direction from 57 businesses/employers, 773 students and parents, and 12 schools and education providers.

“What we found was that while Sort It allows engagement with a large number of students and career changers, the value of engagement with employers and training providers was very limited in the traditional expo format, and tended to be a once-off interaction. While attendees valued the connection with employers at the expo, they felt it didn’t provide a platform for deeper conversations,” says Sara, CEDA Talent and Skills Manager.

Additionally, feedback from our previous exhibitors also told us that while there were high numbers of students attending, they did not have the opportunity to tell the story of what it is like working in their specific industry. They expressed that the expo provided an opportunity to raise their brand profile but missed the mark for real, valuable engagement with attendees.