In a new series detailing the workforce development and training available at various farming operations across Queensland, the Rural Jobs and Skills Alliance spoke to Rugby Farms about the job opportunities they offer and the career development their provide.
Rugby Farm produces approximately 14,000 acres of vegetable crops each year located across Queensland’s abundant growing regions. We have properties located in the Lockyer Valley, Darling Downs, Southern Queensland and North Queensland.
In peak season we employ over 800 staff. The majority of the workforce during this time are harvest labourers and shed packing labourers. On average 50 per cent of our work force is working holiday makers. We also employ administration and human resources staff including an accountant, dispatch, finance, recruiters and trainers; agronomists; boiler makers; cleaners; diesel mechanics; farm managers; forklift drivers; general farm hands; machine operators, maintenance general labourer; quality controllers and quality assurance managers; shed and harvest supervisors and managers; transport operations team members; truck driver; and a work, health and safety manager.
Any new employee will undergo training to do these jobs. The new employee will undergo an induction followed by department specific online training to familiarise them with the tasks they will be required to complete once they commence working. For general labourers they will receive on the job training and supervision until competent to complete tasks. Other specialist roles require qualifications ranging from certificate level to degree level, licences and permits or previous work experience.
Currently we engage registered training organisations and other training to develop our workforce. Through which our employees can gain various qualifications including certificate III in Heavy Commercial Vehicle Mechanical Technology; chemical Accreditation training; Coles Quality Academy program; first aid training; HACCP/HARPS training; High Risk Work training; ICAS38 melon Thrip inspection (DAF); people management courses; soil wealth and integrated crop protection; working from heights training; and HVNL chain of responsibility training.
The R.T.O’s have always been helpful to meet our training requirements for our staff to maintain compliance with our work systems and help develop our current and future leaders. Internally we provide supervisor Development programs covering key elements of people management skills, workplace health and training responsibilities and on the job operational requirements; quality controller training including food safety standards, critical control point and quality control point training; and Microsoft Excel basics training.
Last year, 42 per cent of non-working holiday employees participated in one or more of the above mentioned programs. Participants who benefited in the programs include administration staff; agronomists; farm labourers; forklift drivers; maintenance staff; mechanics; truck drivers; quality assurance team members; and supervisors.
The majority of training programs our employees participate in is focused around our compliance requirements. We have over the past 18 months been focusing on developing our supervisors and quality assurance team to ensure high quality and work performance of operational staff. We determined the need for training based on business objectives, risk assessments and compliance requirements. A training needs analysis determined the training required for each role within the business and training was implemented accordingly.
Seeing the development and growth of our employees through our supervisor development program has been a real highlight of our workforce training program.
We have seen less confusion as to the training requirements of staff to remain compliant with our management systems as a result of a transparent and structured approach to training.
The investment into our supervisor level has seen an improvement in their ability to manage staff which in turn has increased productivity. Communication from front line staff to managers has also improved and in turn so has our flow of work.
However, our training program isn’t without barriers. Our workforce is time poor and the investment needed to remove key staff from production needs to be carefully assessed.