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The meat processing industry in New Zealand employs more than 25,000 workers. To meet the demanding customer, food safety, health and safety and other requirements, and to maximise productivity, the workforce receives a high level of training.

A challenge for the industry is that many people entering the industry for the first time are untrained and often relatively unskilled. However, almost all tasks carried out in a modern meat processing plant require a high degree of skill. For this reason, there is a strong system in place of ‘on-plant’ training. This leads directly to a variety of New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA) approved qualifications, which are administered by the Primary Industry Training Organisation. More than 4000 workers annually are enrolled in a variety of courses, ranging from NZQA levels 2 to 5.

An important development for the industry in recent years has been industry apprenticeships. Under the two apprenticeship qualifications currently being offered (in Boning and Slaughter) men and women undergo an intensive programme of on-plant training and supervision for two years, after which they have a valuable level 4 qualification. This apprenticeship not only deals with the technical aspects of the job, but also is intended to develop a future generation of trainers and supervisors.

The industry also needs people with high level skills in engineering, food processing, marketing, human resources, management, and so on. From mid-2017 the MIA will offer scholarships to university and polytechnic students for the duration of their study. The industry will pay a portion of their annual study costs, and also provide paid vacation/part-time employment so that scholars are introduced to the industry – and potentially begin a future career in meat processing and exporting.