2019 APEN Award for Excellence in Extension by an Experienced Professional was Awarded to Sophie Lapsley for contribution to extension through her work as Coordinator with the Vegetable Industry and Education Training Initiative (VegPRO)
Sophie’s work with VegPRO provided many insights into how farmers want to learn, which is relevant for extension. Key points on what they were looking for, applicable to extension are:
Timing of courses/events to fit in with the production schedule
Content has to be specific to what those who attend want to learn
Respected trainers who understand the latest technologies, as well as adult learning and can be ‘hands on’ are most important to effective training and extension
Focused short courses and workshops are preferable to full VET certificates
Trainers skills, knowledge and aptitude were most important, more an e.g. a VET trainer accreditation
Practical, current information was preferred over theoretical knowledge; theoretical topics have to be brought into context of vegetable production
Preferences were for 1-day workshops with time available at the beginning or end of the day so that urgent work tasks could be attended to on the day
Courses delivered locally not in urban areas
There was a demand for courses in languages other than English (L.O.T.E)
Not everyone likes online training but feedback from those who took VegPRO courses online was positive. They saw the benefits of being able to take their time completing the course and thus making it easier to fit it around their work.
The 2017 recipient of the Open Award was Heather Collins. She received this award for her experience as a facilitator leading to study into improving the way in which we work with farmers in response to growing community expectations of farming practices and their impact on the environment.