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Wine Industry to Upskill Pickers And Cellar Hands

Press release
Friday, 23 October 2009
Wine Industry to Upskill Local Grape Pickers And Cellar Hands

The wine industry can put a cap on its skills shortage, with the launch of the New Zealand’s first training programme combining winemaking and viticulture studies.

Wineries currently rely on a large proportion of seasonal workers from abroad, who come to New Zealand to work as a cellar hand or pick grapes, then depart at the end of a season, taking their skills and earnings with them.

The new programme aims to encourage local seasonal or part time vineyard workers to consider a full time career in one of New Zealand’s fastest growing sectors. It will also provide an opportunity for current workers to train in cross over areas of a winery.

Launched this week, the foundation qualification in Winery and Viticulture is a joint training programme between the NZ Horticulture Industry Training Organisation (NZHITO) and Competenz, the engineering, food and beverage manufacturing industry training organisation.

Competenz Chief Executive John Blakey believes that employees and employers will benefit greatly from the opportunity to engage in training, upskilling a sector with potential skill shortages and where there is increasing emphasis on quality as well as new technologies.

“It means an all-round boost to the industry – enticing employers and workers to commit to training, as well as developing and strengthening existing skills so that ultimately there will be a more highly skilled pool of workers to meet industry demands,” said Blakey.

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Sara Scott, Viticulturist at Allan Scott Wines, says the course’s versatility should also entice employers to support the qualification.

“Being able to offer our people a combination of new skills in both viticulture and winemaking is exciting. Some staff come to us with no qualifications so this will be an extra incentive for them to work with us. Some are already studying viticulture and now they have an opportunity to learn the whole package.

“The course is everything we’re looking for in a qualification for people looking to kick start a career in the wine industry,” she said.

The qualification is designed to create a seamless experience on vineyards where employees can mix their activities between horticultural work on the vines and manufacturing work in the bottling plant. The programme will also allow both industry training organisations to offer students more comprehensive training pathways, from an entry level OSH programme through to national qualifications in horticulture and food and related processing products, culminating in university study.

Michael Hogan of the Waiheke Winegrowers Association believes the two careers, although inextricably linked, are quite different in their application and approach.

“I think the qualification is a very good idea, as many young folks will appreciate the interconnection between the two careers by working in both areas,” he said.


Notes to editor
Just over 53 percent of New Zealand’s workers within the Wine and Other Alcoholic Beverage Manufacturing sector are without post-school qualifications, only 14 percent have a level 1-4 certificate, less than 10 percent are diploma qualified, and 24.6 percent have a bachelor (or higher) degree.

The size of the industry has been steadily increasing, from 358 wineries in 2000, with just over 10,000 hectares of vines, to 585 wineries in 2008, with almost 30,000 hectares of vines.

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