Westland Milk people have a passion for learning

25 January 2022

The opportunity to study for a qualification has kindled a passion for learning among staff at South Island dairy company Westland Milk with more than 60 of its manufacturing team studying toward a Dairy Processing Apprenticeship.

After requests from staff the company, which operates four dairy processing plants on the West Coast and in Canterbury, investigated how it could offer opportunities for them to gain a qualification.

Westland Milk discussed the options with the Primary ITO and a partnership was developed to deliver level 3 and 4 courses to new and existing staff who were interested in the manufacturing team.

The opportunity was offered to the entire team of 270 staff, with 69 enrolling during 2020 and 2021, 45 of which were newer staff.

General Manager of Manufacturing Ross Burdett says the programme has been a big success and provided benefits right across the business.

“It has ignited a passion for learning for those who have taken it on. They can see that there is a career progression available and a structured development programme for them.”

Leaders supporting learners

“We are quite proud of the effort that our team has put into this and the progress the learners have made. A number of our leaders have also really stepped up to support our learners.”

“Through helping out others they have built bonds and relationships to progress the learners through the journey to an apprenticeship. It is really pleasing to see that.”

Ross says new staff are developing their skills much quicker than previously due to the training. Junior operators are able to problem solve and trouble shoot themselves, providing more value to their teams and gaining confidence quicker.

Junior operator Renae McGregor completed her apprenticeship in 2021 and says it enabled her to learn about different parts of the business and progress her career.

“It has definitely opened my eyes on what I might be interested in and where I would like to go with future job opportunities.”

Renae McGregor Westland Milk

She says the broad nature of the course, which covered sampling, packing, procedures, gave a context for learners to understand how their work contributed to the end product.

“You get to understand the full process for producing milk products and the standards you have to keep up to all the time and why.”

Renae had some experience having worked at the plant for three years before beginning the study, and says it is particularly helpful for those newer to the industry.

“When you first start you are looking for procedures for how to do things. This is good because it gives new staff the confidence to get into their job and make sense of it quicker.”

Ross Burdett says due to the success of the programme Westland Milk is considering offering Levels 5 and 6 so that apprentices can continue their study.

Westland Milk, whose roots were established in 1935 on the West Coast, is also the first dairy company to enrol its milk collection operators onto the Level 4 qualification, and is one of the few companies in Aotearoa to own their own milk tanker fleet.

Read more about the Primary ITO's Dairy Processing programmes.