A $325,000 government grant has helped regional Victoria’s largest co-packing business increase its productivity through the introduction of an innovative product line and new automated equipment.
The grant, from the Agriculture Workforce Plan, has also enabled the Australian Disability Enterprise-registered business to train 142 new and existing workers to operate the new equipment.
Merriwa Industries in Wangaratta is reputed to be one of Australia’s largest integrated employers, which includes people with disability. It has a team of more than 300 people, including more than 100 supported workers.
Merriwa operates commercial businesses in packaging and the timber and garden nursery sectors, along with delivering child, youth and family support services.
The Agriculture Workforce Plan is helping Victorians, including those who lost their jobs as a result of the pandemic, to find paid work while helping to ensure the state's vital agriculture sector has the workforce it needs.
Employees are supported to develop transferrable skills and receive training to increase their future employment prospects, while also receiving ongoing personal development training.
Minister for Regional Development Mary-Anne Thomas says Merriwa Industries is a major employer in Wangaratta and the north east, and is successfully adapting its operations to take on new workers.
She recently met with recruits to see how new funding was benefiting the business and workers.
“We are backing businesses like Merriwa Industries because they create jobs for regional Victorians, including for people that may otherwise face barriers to employment. It’s a win for individuals, the community and the local economy,” she said.
Merriwa Industries Chief Executive Officer Bart Crawley says the AWP funding has had a significant impact on Merriwa Industries’ ability to inform, prepare, support and train staff to deal with the significant challenges Covid created. One of these challenges is the unprecedented demand from clients for their services.
“The funding has allowed us to modify our physical footprint and processes, increasing our flexibility to our customers’ needs. This included investment in new equipment, technology and systems to support the demand, as well as significant skills development through targeted training.
“The funding was a crucial element in our organisation successfully navigating our teams through the Covid challenges,” said Mr Crawley.