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Investing in the sector’s future – its people

RD&A News | May 2022
31 May 2022
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It is widely recognised that some wine businesses and regions experience difficulties finding and retaining people, from the vineyard through to hospitality and cellar door operations. This is not just a recent consequence of COVID-19 – it has been happening for some time. 

Individual businesses need resilient, innovative and entrepreneurial people capable of adapting to changing market conditions. And the sector broadly requires vibrant leaders contributing their knowledge and time for the greater good of the grape and wine community. 

We need to constantly feed the pipeline, especially across hard to fill roles and in regions, but more broadly to safeguard the future prosperity and longevity of the sector. 

Wine Australia invests in programs to help our leaders to develop the skills to drive our community forward, to promote career pathways  and to support a diverse workforce. 

Leadership development

Since 2006, Wine Australia has funded and co-ordinated the grape and wine community’s unique national professional and personal development program Future Leaders, in collaboration with Australian Grape & Wine. The program cultivates world-class leadership qualities, establishing a network of confident and committed leaders within the sector creating a culture of shared interests and collaboration. 

Now with well over 100 graduates, many of these individuals have taken roles at regional wine and grapegrower associations and some have been appointed to national committees and boards. They are responsible for making critical decisions across all aspects impacting the sector – sustainability, research and development, exports, low and no alcohol, trade and market access, tax, biosecurity and more.

In addition to Future Leaders, the Next Crop program is now being rolled out as a permanent feature in the Wine Australia-funded leadership development offerings, following its introduction by the Barossa Grape and Wine Association several years ago through Wine Australia’s Regional Program

Image: Barossa Next Crop 2021 participants

Next Crop is an opportunity for regions to design and deliver their own bespoke leadership development program at minimal cost for participants, via a three-way partnership between Wine Australia, regional partners and a provider organisation.

The program provides a flexible and regionally targeted platform to introduce leadership, business and management skills – or whatever is of most priority to the region – for individuals to build capacity within the community. 

It aims to keep the future generation engaged and committed to their region and careers in the sector. It also acts as a stepping-stone to Future Leaders. 


The Wine Industry Mentor Program is another initiative aiming to support and inspire future generations of wine sector professionals; proudly supported by Wine Australia, Wine Communicators of Australia, The University of Adelaide, Wine Industry Suppliers Australia Inc and the Australian Society of Viticulture and Oenology (ASVO).

The program boasts some of Australia’s most highly respected and experienced wine sector leaders as mentors. These individuals give their time willingly and voluntarily to support and foster the growth of the Australian wine sector – offering mentees, regardless of role, a deeply rewarding opportunity to enhance their professional career development.

And the program itself is a leading example of the Australian wine community collaborating to share knowledge  as well as recognising and supporting diversity in all its forms across our sector.

Attracting talent

In addition to attracting and retaining good people, especially across hard to fill roles, the skill base required in the sector is rapidly changing. 

Wine Australia is taking a number of approaches to enhance information and awareness of careers in grape and wine, as well as ensuring the grape and wine sector is fairly represented in cross-sector national initiatives.

Career pathways

We are working directly with individuals from across the sector who are committed to this cause, in order to design and develop evidence-based, contemporary, accessible and engaging content explaining career pathways information in a language and context suitable for school students.

The immediate focus will be on the various pathways to enter the sector as well as showcasing viticulture and vineyard workers. It’s an opportunity to feature innovation, agtech, sustainability, science, adaptability to climate change as well as promoting the ‘lifestyle’, regardless of role young people may aspire to in our sector. 

We’re doing this by developing a suite of video case studies taking a deep dive into various roles, pathways and aspirations with current students, new entrants and individuals from across the value chain. 

A virtual reality supply chain tour will be developed to showcase the diversity of careers situated in context within the vineyard and winery as well as bottling, packaging, business, cellar door, wine and sensory science.
The aim is to support awareness of the sector and enable access to an immersive virtual vineyard and winery tour, to inspire and educate students.

All resources will be available via established career websites, as well as a forthcoming grape and wine careers hub on Wine Australia’s website, coupled with professional development support for teachers and careers counsellors to engage with the content in meaningful ways with their students. 

Schools and teacher professional development

Wine Australia’s associate member status with the Primary Industries Education Foundation of Australia (PIEFA) provides access to a range of school-based activities and initiatives including Farmer Time, field trips, conferences and career expos. 

We have recently developed and published a comprehensive digital program Discovering Australian Wine Regions mapped to the national school curriculum. It is hoped that this course will help students in years 9 – 10 develop a greater appreciation and knowledge of diverse wine region geographies, sustainability, viticulture, export markets and the sector more broadly.

We’re involved with a number of other primary and secondary school teacher professional development programs and we are sponsoring the South Australian Oliphant Science Awards, promoting innovative student responses to tackling challenges in wine science, food chemistry and viticulture.

The aim is to develop practical resources and activities that will support and expand existing regional initiatives or fill gaps for regions currently under-resourced.

National projects 

Off the back of the release of the National Agricultural Workforce Strategy, there are a number of Agricultural Workforce projects currently underway. 

The AgATTRACT career mapping project seeks to develop a digital career pathways map for the agricultural sector that demonstrates to users (including students, career seekers, industry bodies, businesses, and employers) the breadth of jobs, careers and education and training pathways available in agriculture. It will help to attract those that hadn’t previously considered working in agriculture and provide a range of options for those who may already be interested. 

In a separate, but related, project the Australian Government Rural Industries Workforce Perceptions Program is aiming to deliver insights into community perceptions around working in rural industries, as well as exploring worker experiences and the impact they have on workforce attraction and retention.

Wine Australia is ensuring the grape and wine sector is fairly represented across  these projects – participating in meetings, workshops and roundtables and ensuring direct grape and wine sector representation in response to national surveys and interviews. 

Supporting the next generation of researchers 

We provide top-up scholarships to PhD students across a number of universities and Wine Australia staff are often called on to present as part of the curriculum at wine teaching universities across research, market insights, market access and regulation. Our collaboration with the University of Adelaide has resulted in a new project specific co-funded PhD scholarships program. 

In addition to funding, the PhD students have access to further professional development opportunities with Wine Australia and are supported to present and attend conferences – including the upcoming Australian Wine Industry Conference’s In the Wine Light on 27 June 2022.  

By continuing to support people  through various activities, initiatives, and collaborations our aim is to see the success of the sector long into the future.

Any comments or questions related to any of these initiatives can be directed to Jo Hargreaves, Senior RDA Program Manager.

This content is restricted to wine exporters and levy-payers. Some reports are available for purchase to non-levy payers/exporters.

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This content is restricted to wine exporters and levy-payers. Some reports are available for purchase to non-levy payers/exporters.