Award winning partnership
The Riverina Institute of TAFE has been rewarded for its efforts in the resurgence of the rice industry in the region.
A joint project it developed in conjunction with SunRice to rebuild the workforce at regional rice mills won a bronze award in the 2012 TAFE NSW Innovation and Excellence Showcase this month.
The collaborative project between TAFE NSW Riverina Institute and SunRice, called ‘Rise of the Phoenix - SunRice Reborn’, was presented with the 2012 bronze award in the partnership category.
Project coordinator Shandra Simpson said it was thrilling to be rewarded for a project which started two years ago.
‘‘It’s fantastic to be recognised for this training journey taken by SunRice and Riverina Institute from an empty mill site to a booming production site that is now milling all the rice in the Deniliquin region,’’ she said.
The two organisations came together in 2010 to rebuild the decimated workforce following the drought.
In late 2007, SunRice announced the closure of its Deniliquin and Coleambally Mills.
The prolonged effects of this drought and the lack of sufficient rice to sustain the milling operations forced the closure.
‘‘But in 2009 the drought finally broke; dams filled, water allocations increased and rice plantings grew throughout the district,’’ Mrs Simpson said.
‘‘In November 2010, SunRice announced it was reopening the SunRice Deniliquin Production Mill with milling to begin in April 2011.
‘‘This presented a new challenge as the remaining five employees at the Deniliquin Mill were caretakers and could not perform all the technical roles of the previous 80 strong workforce.
‘‘At the same time, the SunRice Leeton Mill was understaffed as it was also beginning to gear up for the best harvest in 10 years.’’
Since most of the skilled workforce had left the region, Mrs Simpson said SunRice urgently needed a strategy to recruit new skilled employees from further afield to be able to meet the opening deadline.
Initial discussions began with SunRice, State Training Services, Job Network Providers and TAFE NSW Riverina Institute.
Mrs Simpson said the first training began in January 2011 as a two week block face to face, with core competence in food processing.
This training combined TAFE staff and technical experts from SunRice, funded by State Training Services.
The Deniliquin Mill now employs close to 120 skilled staff including millers, packing line operators, electrical and mechanical maintainers and logistics personnel, as well as associated support roles.
Leeton TAFE business development manager Jacqui Walsh, Training Coordinator for TAFE at SunRice Daph Tyndall, SunRice people and culture manager Sharon Bloomfield, TAFE business development manager Shandra Simpson and Riverina Institute director Kerry...