FOR Queenslander Debbie Hardke, the red meat processing industry has ticked the boxes as an employer in a host of different ways over many years.
When she started as a meat packer in Beaudesert straight out of highschool, it was about having full time work in her small hometown - something anyone from the bush knows is never a given.
When she returned after having children, it was about flexible working hours to accommodate family commitments.
Then, it became about the opportunity to pursue a career path.
All the while, however, the friendships formed and the ‘big family’ nature of the business has been the main drawcard.
Ms Hardke is a training co-ordinator at JBS Dinmore, the largest beef plant in the southern hemisphere.
Her role involves training new employees, existing workers in different roles, conducting external training for the likes of maintenance contractors and running inductions.
“I love watching people progress within the business,” she said.
“This is a multicultural, diverse industry with lots of opportunities - far more than what I realised when I started out.”
Over the years, Ms Hardke has shuffled sideways into administration, spent a little bit of time in human resources and packed on and off.
“The good thing is the next generation are really seeing red meat processing as a career path now,” she said.
So they should. With more than 100 careers to choose from and a growing need to plan human resources to keep the $23 billion industry sustainable, it’s increasingly a target area for the young.
But, as a new campaign launched by the Australian Meat Processor Corporation (AMPC) called “Meat. Your Career” points out, it is an industry with a lot to offer all ages.
From flexible hours to transferrable skills, the chance to work with people from varying cultures and pathways across a host of trades and sectors, from information technology to science and engineering, this is an industry going places in terms of jobs.
The red meat sector employs around 34000 people, according to AMPC.
It is the second largest employer by sector and the nation’s largest food product manufacturing industry.
Ms Hardke’s mother, Marlene Nuhn, also spent many years, before retiring, in the industry.
She also started at the Beaudesert plant, then owned by Australian Meat Holdings (AMH), and says she made lifelong friendships.
For more information about current opportunities for meat processing workers, visit www.ampc.com.au/respirces/careers.