Fonterra’s Takaka site employs around 45 people and receives about 560,000 litres of milk per day from the Golden Bay area.
This is turned into skim milk powder – around 60 tonnes per day – mostly destined for the export market, where it’s often used as an ingredient in other food, like ice-cream, chocolate and baby food.
Site Services Coordinator Gary Harwood says he and the school’s programme coordinators started working on a plan in June to get three students in when the season got underway in August.
“We tried to make the experience as genuine as we could and put them through the full on-boarding programme – a medical check, police check, interview, and a site induction with training on food, environmental and people safety and site security,” says Gary.
The students were assigned operators as ‘buddies’, given a three day on-boarding programme and then worked a half day each week for six weeks. They were each given a specific role, with one in the energy centre understanding how the boilers work, one in the fleet services workshop assisting with the day-to-day maintenance of the milk collection fleet, and one in the powder plant learning about the different stages of the milk powder operation.
Gary says the feedback from the school and community has been overwhelmingly positive.
“All the students, teachers and parents who’ve been in contact with me have been really thankful for our involvement. They see it as a great opportunity for these students to develop some practical skills and get first-hand experience of the employment process.
“It’s been great for us too – all the staff and operators who’ve worked with the students enjoyed the experience and were blown away by their keenness and how quickly they picked things up. We think it’s really important to be out there, putting something back into the community and lowering the barriers so more people can get a sense of what goes on behind the fence,” says Gary.
Gary and his team are also talking to Collingwood Area School to see how the programme might be opened up to them and expanded in future.