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Innovative cadet programme brings youth to dairy industry

Innovative cadet programme brings youth to the West Coast dairy industry

University isn't for everyone.

Providing an alternative pathway for 18-24-year-olds who want to learn, Westland Milk Products has been bringing youth and learning into its West Coast diary co-operative for the past 10 years with a successful cadet programme in the Primary Industries Vocational Pathway.

Reaping the rewards on both sides, the partnership is a resounding success, says Nicky Cooper, HR Training and Development Advisor, Westland Milk Products.

"Key to its success is the focus on youth, learning and flexibility. Cadets spend approximately 18 months on a 'taste test' of Westland's business,” says Nicky.

"We are tapping into and building on the trades academies and vocational pathways opportunities now offered to secondary students.” Westland's cadet programme is specifically targeted at youth looking for an alternative career to the university pathway.

Arthur Graves, the Ministry of Education’s Group Manager for Youth Guarantee said of the programme: “This sort of collaboration between business and education will ensure that school leavers are highly skilled and ‘work ready’. Relevancy in education is crucial, and can only be achieved when industry are actively involved in supporting curriculum decisions. Learning happens both inside and outside of the traditional classroom.”

The cadet programme is made up of 10-week blocks of hands-on learning in the key manufacturing departments of Westland, including a final stint in the supporting services to the company: supplier services, transport department, warehousing, customer liaison, and sales and marketing.

"By the end of the 18 months we have a cadet who is a flexible, agile learner with a broad understanding of the entire business and who is comfortable to move around and upwards in the company," says Nicky.

"Cadets exit the programme work ready, with a view on where they fit in the business, and are then transitioned into permanent roles."

Most of the 16 cadets to date are currently employed at Westland with positions including supervisor, senior plant operators and key technical roles.

The learning doesn't stop either - all cadets are expected to continue their learning by completing a Certificate in Dairy Technology, followed by a Dairy Diploma.

Westland typically employs two cadets per year, depending on the milk solids’ payout. This year's significant drop meant one cadet for 2015.

Successful cadets must have completed year 13 with a minimum level 2 NCEA in subjects relevant to the dairy sector, (maths, sciences, engineering, food standards or computing).

Building on the successful cadet programme, a new Tertiary Cadet Programme was set up last year for young people with a university degree looking to further their education in the dairy sector. This is a 12-month programme with employment at Westland on completion.


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