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Class of 2007 provides new vintage for winery

O’Reilly’s Canungra Valley vineyards is growing the skills of the next vintage of wine industry workers, thanks to participation in a new and innovative program that allows school students to train in the industry, before they’re even old enough to enjoy its spoils.

Two Tamborine Mountain State High students are training and working at the vineyard in preparation for careers in viticulture and wine tourism – the first time such specialised industry training has been offered to students who are still at school.

17-year-old Curtis De Silva and 15-year-old Amy Turkington are learning what it takes to work in the competitive wine industry with Curtis specialising in the viticulture side of the business and Amy focusing on hospitality. Other students are expected to follow.

Tamborine Mountain High Workplace Learning Coordinator Christine Rekort said the Wine Industry Gateway program, which also involves training at TAFE, builds on more generalised vocational training courses being offered to school students as part of the senior curriculum.

“It’s so specialised, which is what sets it apart,” Rekort said.

“A lot of students study for certificates in horticulture or hospitality in general, but having the opportunity to gain specialised industry qualifications and establish defined career paths while still at school makes this program unique.”

Curtis De Silva has followed up horticulture studies in Years 9 and 10 with the Certificate in Viticulture studies he is undertaking over two years, including spending one day each week at Canungra Valley Vineyards tending the vines.

“I’ve learned a lot about canopy maintenance and the diseases that can affect the grapes and have been able to see firsthand the different growing stages, including taking part in the harvest of the Chambourcin,” he said.

“I enjoy working outside and we’ve also travelled to Stanthorpe to see the winemaking process so it is good to see how it all works from the budding grapes through to the bottle.”

Tamborine Mountain State High is one of only seven schools throughout Queensland and the only one in the region to take part in the wine industry program, while Canungra Valley Vineyards is the region’s only winery to currently offer placement for students.

20 students currently take wine industry subjects through the school, with the recent devastation of the school’s small teaching vineyard from birds and mildew teaching students the hard lessons about the challenges of winemaking.

In contrast Canungra Valley Vineyard’s students were able to experience a bumper harvest season and Vineyard Operations Manager Arwen McGregor believes the lessons about the ups and downs of the business are important.

“Some students may think that working in a vineyard is a glamorous type of job, but it is hard work like any hospitality business with the added challenge of dealing with the vagaries of nature on the growing side,” McGregor said.

“It has been good to provide a realistic introduction to the industry for the Tamborine students and we look forward to nurturing future students to find careers in our industry.”

Open daily from 10am-4.30pm, the vineyard is a member of the Gold Coast Hinterland Wine Country group of five wineries that form a wonderful trail for visitors interested in exploring the culinary delights of the region. Find out more at http://www.goldcoastwinecountry.com.au



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