Study life changing for cheesemaker

20 May 2022

Aimee Thorne still pinches herself at her situation and after seven years working at award winning Dutch cheese company Karikaas Cheese in Canterbury, still loves cheese.

Before she took a role at Karikaas, Aimee was an at-home-mum looking to return to the workforce but with reduced confidence and limited prospects. Now she’s a cheese maker of award-winning dairy products and completing her New Zealand Apprenticeship in Dairy Product Process (Level 4) through the Primary ITO, having completed her Level 3 New Zealand Certificate in Dairy Processing.

Aimee says she loves what she does and is grateful for the life-changing opportunity she’s been given to gain qualifications and a career. “I had to get to 40 to get qualifications or a CV! I have really enjoyed the study.”

Aimee started off working in the young store where her tasks were cleaning, waxing and turning cheeses. When an opportunity came up to make product in the factory, she put her hand up.

Now her role involves making artisan cheeses and yoghurts and pasteurising product.

The study has helped her understand the method and reasoning behind the work she does. “It has really pushed me and enhanced my skills. It has also pushed me in the other sense in that I did not know if I wanted to learn.”

Aimee says she’s fortunate to have the support of Karikaas owner and manager Di Hawkins. “I am lucky that I have a boss that is more than willing to sit down and answer questions and help out. She has been a great support.”

Di says she’s very proud of Aimee’s commitment to achieve the first qualification she has ever had.

“The change in Aimee has been enormous. She has really grown into herself, and it has been lovely to see her pride in her achievement.”

Di says she has a fantastic team and encourages those who are keen to take the opportunity to study toward a qualification.

“I am a true advocate of assisting people to become the best people they can be because everybody gains.”

“It is really important that they understand what they do and why they do it. It allows them to understand when things are not quite right and why we ask them to do something a particular way, and it also helps them to understand and take pride in what they do.”

Di says the Primary ITO programme gives students an understanding of key components behind the processes they follow at work, including legislation, food hygiene and health and safety requirements.

While the New Zealand Certificate in Dairy Processing qualification had initially been developed to support large dairy processing companies, the Primary ITO team created a programme and resources which also supports artisan and boutique dairy processors including the team at Karikaas Cheese.

Primary ITO Sector Manager, Ross Harnden-Taylor, says it is important that work-based training is available to as many people as possible so that they can develop skills and knowledge and gain qualifications. “We have worked hard to ensure that our programmes can be completed by anyone working in any size of operation, enabling people to achieve formal recognition for the skills and knowledge they must use every day in their roles.”

Aimee says she’s keen to keep going and study Level 5 and 6, with Level 6 currently only available through Wintec or Massey University, if plans for these programmes to be available on the job come to fruition.

What started out as a love for cheese has developed into a love for study. “After 6 or 7 years of being here I have not got sick of eating dairy products. I eat more than I should!” she says.

For more information on the value of an apprenticeship, visit our Apprenticeships page.

Contact us to get in touch with your local Primary ITO Training Adviser and discuss the full suite of dairy processing work based qualifications.