One of New Zealand’s most experienced winegrowers firmly believes the smarter and more educated your staff are, the better your vineyard will be.
Renowned viticulture consultant Dominic Pecchenino currently manages eight separate vineyards in Marlborough which collectively span 300ha. He employees a team of staff across multiple properties but he believes you’re only as good as your least-skilled worker.
He says “lifting those people up” through industry training programmes makes good business sense. Dominic ran his own graduate programme for many years in conjunction with Matador Estate owner, John Webber, and has mentored a former employee plus a current staff member, Edward King, through Primary ITO study.
“Ed’s eyes in the vineyard are certainly more open now and he’s more quizzical which is great. The more eyes you have in your operation, the better. He’s doing more than just his job – he’s looking at the whole picture.”
Dominic often quizzes Edward on topics like plant diseases and vine nutrition, taking every opportunity to show him real-life examples in the vineyard and discuss his current studies.
“Now when he sees something he brings it to my attention straight away and he wants to know what’s going on. That’s really important and it always makes for a better employee.”
With 35 years’ experience under his belt, and more than a decade serving on the New Zealand Winegrowers board, Dominic says industry training is now more important than ever.
“We need the ability to take people that are interested in the wine growing business and see if they really want to make it their career. Primary ITO is a great opportunity to do that by helping them gain an education while still working full time.
“Primary ITO operates in a manner that allows people to work at their own pace. Trainees have the ability and choice to work on different sections of the programme to move themselves forward.”
As the wine industry grows and evolves, Dominic predicts formal qualifications and training will soon be required to carry out certain tasks like applying chemicals and fertilisers.
“The ITO is a perfect vehicle to give people that extra knowledge base and X factor when they’re going for a job interview or promotion. It helps give them an extra leg up.
“As an employer I’m 100 per cent behind it. I can’t see why an employer wouldn’t embrace the opportunity to help upskill their staff.”