Leading NZ Wine Exporter Prepares For Future Growth

24 August 2017

When Julie Bassett became head of Human Resources at Constellation Brands – the largest exporter of New Zealand wine – she soon realised a problem was looming.

“We identified that our ability to recruit people was going to be challenging over the coming years given how fast our industry was growing,” she explains. “In Marlborough, for example, there’s a limited number of people and there’s also a housing shortage, so it’s hard to bring workers in from elsewhere.”

Constellation Brands’ answer was to develop an industry-first cadetship programme where new employees would study viticulture through Primary ITO while working in the company’s vineyards and wineries.

“The intention was to try and get people excited about the industry and attract young people to come straight to us from school,” she says.

“A significant number of those cadets have now gone into permanent roles which is very exciting. Making Primary ITO training available has been a great way to help recruit young people to our company.”

Constellation Brands is a global business which employs over 260 staff in New Zealand. They own a string of high-profile wine brands including Kim Crawford, Nobilo, Selaks, Monkey Bay and VNO. The company owns multiple vineyards spanning 2300ha and plans to continue planting more grapes in the coming years. At present they produce approximately 45 million bottles of wine in New Zealand each year.

In addition to the cadetship programme, Julie says many other employees are studying towards viticulture qualifications with Primary ITO at any point in time.

“It’s absolutely vital to have people continue to develop, learn and increase their skill levels as they move through our organisation. We’re more than happy to invest that time and money into training people so they can move into higher positions with greater responsibility and accountability.

“As people learn and develop their skills in different areas they become more flexible so you can assign them to different tasks and leave them to work independently. As more skills develop they can take on new roles and responsibilities which is great for both us and them. That’s key to growth in any business.”

In recent years Primary ITO has also looked at Constellation’s broader training needs and developed a ‘first line management programme’ to help foster leadership and supervisory skills.

“We have a large seasonal workforce at different times during the year. Over those busy periods our permanent employees have to step up and supervise our seasonal workers. We wanted to equip them with the skills they needed and this programme does that.”

Julie says it’s estimated almost 2000 additional employees will be required in Marlborough alone over the next three years to meet growing demand for New Zealand wine, especially from North America.

“Primary ITO recently recognised the considerable growth in the industry by adding additional resource into Marlborough to enable trainee numbers to increase. That’s exactly what is needed to cater for future growth.”