Wine Growing Apprenticeship paves the way for future career

7 August 2023

What started out as a vineyard job on a working holiday has developed into a thriving viticulture career and working towards completing a New Zealand Apprenticeship in Wine Growing for Giuli Davila.

Now a New Zealand resident, Giuli is from Argentina and first came to Marlborough looking for work in 2019. After enjoying her first taste of working in a winery, Giuli wanted to continue but her working holiday visa status and Covid-19 meant she left vineyard work behind.

Later, having met her partner in New Zealand, Giuli began the process to gain residency and was able to eventually take contract work and a permanent role at large wine company Delegat Ltd, near Blenheim.

Now a vineyard operator, Giuli says she is thankful for the support of Delegat and Te Pūkenga | Primary ITO, who are supporting her to gain her apprenticeship qualification.

From Córdoba, Argentina’s second largest city, Giuli had never encountered rural life before coming to Blenheim, but learning on the job is setting her up for a career in wine production, she says.

Giuli says she was eager to learn when she began her first vineyard role. “There was a lot of information and so much that I didn’t understand. I wanted to know why we were doing things a certain way.”

Now Giuli is focussed on progressing and succeeding. “I just love this work and I know I want to climb up the ladder and I need knowledge to do that.”

Delegat Ltd is one of New Zealand’s largest wine growers, with red and white wine grape varieties in Marlborough and Hawkes Bay, sold predominantly under brand Oyster Bay.

Vineyard Manager Mark Noble says the company supports staff to learn on the job because improved knowledge increases both their understanding and ability to contribute.

“We rely on vineyard operators to identify problems and challenges like pests and diseases and report that back to managers. So, upskilling our operators to recognise these types of problems helps us to meet our standards and improve product quality.”

Mark says it also provides opportunities for promotion within, instead of recruiting new staff. “Our existing staff already understand our goals, vineyard and processes so the step up to new learning works well for them and our managers.”

Giuli quickly showed potential to advance after starting her learning with the New Zealand Certificate in Primary Industry Skills (Level 2) Horticulture. “She is very driven to push on and further herself. It is great to see her grab the opportunity with both hands.”

Giuli says she relishes learning from her Primary ITO Training Adviser Tom van der Burgh and her work colleagues. “I have a lot of questions and I always want to learn more. They always make themselves available to help me.”

“I love having people around me who have so much knowledge. Any time they can pass on information to me I am all ears.”

The Primary ITO New Zealand Apprenticeship in Horticulture Production (Wine Growing) (Complex) (Level 4) includes technical viticulture and infrastructure tasks, vineyard machinery and spray application, harvest plans, production goals, soil management, grape vine health, frost protection, water conservation and organic and biodynamic practices.

Tom van der Burgh says the apprenticeship offers ākonga (learners) the opportunity to progress because having the qualification, alongside practical experience, is attractive to employers.

He says many learners have experienced further success after achieving their qualification, including winning awards, progressing to roles of higher responsibility and on to higher level study, and he recommends the qualification to employers. “This is a great way to upskill staff, address any knowledge gaps and help our vineyards to achieve their target quality standards.”

For more information on the New Zealand Apprenticeship in Horticulture Production (Wine Growing) click here.

For all other wine growing and viticulture programmes, click here.

Get in touch with your local Training Adviser on 0800 20 80 20 email [email protected] or click here.