MPC cracks North Coast award

IN ANY industry there are always the nuts that have to be dealt with.

The Macadamia Processing Co. Limited in Alstonville is always dealing with nuts, specifically macadamias and because it is now training its staff to do the same, its efforts have been rewarded.

As winner of the Hunter and North Coast Region 2009 Minister's Awards for Excellence in Training, MPC has been recognised for its training programs in food processing.

“We run the courses for seven months because of the seasonal nature of the business,” operations manager Steven Lee said.

“And we find it improves productivity having better qualified staff as well as reduces OHS and quality issues.”

With harvesting starting in March, processing of the macadamias takes place 24 hours a day from April through to November.

“With the inclement weather last season we had an interrupted harvest,” Mr Lee said. “Therefore there were a few processing challenges, but we are working through it.”

There has now been 73 staff who have recently graduated from Traineeships with Certificates II or III in Food Processing and 20 more staff are doing their Certificate II. MPC's aim is to increase the number of qualified staff by 10 per cent each year.

“It basically gives them a nationally recognised qualification that can be transferred anywhere in the food processing industry,” Mr Lee said.

“We've had staff of all ages complete the course as well, from 17 to 71.”

MPC also has a large contingent of trainees from non-English speaking backgrounds as well, so training is often tailored to suit individual needs.

This may include matching mentors from similar backgrounds which has helped with the success of the course.

MPC started in 1983 and is wholly Australian-owned by 180 macadamia growers from north-eastern NSW and south-eastern Queensland.

While most of the work is processing the locally grown macadamia nuts, MPC do some roasting, dicing and flavouring as well, before its tasty morsels are sent to major food manufacturers, domestically and internationally.

“As part of the training we have developed, we made sure that it met national training standards in conjunction with TURSA and Central West Community College Apprenticeship Centre. We have been running these courses for three years now,” Mr Lee said.

According to Central West Community College manager Peter Gilchrist, MPC have a genuine desire to invest in their people, encourage them to improve their skills through training and give opportunities for development and progression within the organisation.

“Very few have impressed me as much as MPC,” he said.

MPC is seen as understanding the benefit of having Australian trainees as part of its strategy to develop and improve the Australian macadamia industry.

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