Fatherly advice leads to an award-winning career


When Joel Campbell was thinking of leaving school, he knew he wanted to do an apprenticeship and was thinking of becoming a builder. When his Dad asked how many old builders he knew, he decided to follow the footsteps of his father and grandfather and become an engineer.

Joel knew he was better at hands-on learning rather than studying from the books and now at age 22 he’s the envy of many of his friends who are still studying while he’s in full time work with no student loan.

He’s one of a number of apprentices Fonterra has as part of a programme that provides opportunities to learn on the job in the areas of dairy processing, heavy automotive engineering, electrical engineering and mechanical engineering.

Having recently completed the four-year course and now a Mechanical Technician at Fonterra’s Whareroa site, Joel says it’s been an awesome experience.

“There are so many experienced people here at the site to learn from – it’s like having 40 of the best teachers all in the one place.

“And I didn’t have to move to go and study, which I was pretty happy about, Taranaki is a great place to live and work.”

Along the way Joel has picked up several awards, most recently he picked up the award for top apprentice at the Taranaki Energy Consortium Awards and he wasn’t the only Fonterra apprentice to be recognised last year, Inia Te Wiata was awarded the Stuart Tolhurst Memorial Award at the National Maintenance Engineering Conference.

There are so many experienced people here at the site to learn from – it’s like having 40 of the best teachers all in the one place.


Fonterra’s apprenticeship programme has recently been given a boost, receiving a funding contribution from the Government’s Regional Apprenticeships Initiative to assist in the training of 44 apprentices to join the ranks over the next two years.

Director, New Zealand Manufacturing Alan Van Der Nagel says Fonterra has a strong commitment to lifelong learning and currently supports almost 600 active vocational learners, including 38 apprentices currently undergoing training.

“We see apprenticeships as an essential investment in the future of the primary sector. In response to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the role of apprentices has never been so important. The primary sector will need about 50,000 more workers in order to help us leverage the opportunities that are currently before us.

“Stories like Joel’s show us that quality apprenticeships work, as they provide trusted training, secure a technical talent pipeline, lift the capability in a workforce and provide long-term employment opportunities in the regions. We welcome the Government’s funding contribution, which will bring the total apprentice positions available at Fonterra to around 82 over the next four years.”

Chris Flatt of the Dairy Workers Union says the DWU is also supportive of the funding contribution. “The additional funding assists our continuing work with Fonterra to build careers in dairy and gives members a pathway to quickly gain the experience and skills necessary to build a secure and meaningful future in the dairy industry.”

The move to significantly increase the number of apprenticeships in Fonterra has also been welcomed by E tū members within the Co-operative.

“Our members are passionate about passing on their craft to young people and at the same time contributing to building the New Zealand workforce,” says E tū National Fonterra Advocate Fiona McQueen.

If you or someone you know is pondering their next steps as the school year comes to an end, then head to our careers page to find out more.