By Sarah Collier

Attracting and retaining skilled people to the dairy sector is crucial to maintaining the development of dairy manufacturer’s engineering and other capabilities. Gardiner Foundation has taken a proactive approach to overcome this challenge by investing in the Monash University Industry Team Initiative (MITI).

The initiative places small multi-disciplinary teams of students with a dairy manufacturer to solve a specific company challenge over a 12-week period, during the university summer break.

When Jia Han Chew joined MITI in 2014, he didn’t know the opportunities it would bring him. “The MITI program gives students work experience and exposure to challenges the dairy industry faces, while building interpersonal skills,” Jia Han said. “It gives us the opportunity to build a professional network while still studying. Over the last few years, I’ve run into a lot of people I met through the MITI program and it helped accelerate the working relationship.”

Now nine years later, he works as a Continuous Improvement Engineer at Bega in Tatura. He has a bachelor’s degree and PhD in chemical engineering from Monash University, and during his MITI program he worked on improving the solubility of powder products.

MITI offers a unique opportunity for participating industry manufacturers to put forward a specific challenge in commercial confidence. Monash University and the manufacturer decide on a multi-disciplinary team of students at differing stages in their studies, who are embedded into the company and try to find a solution to this real world challenge. “Monash is more research focused and students often lack the industry experience. MITI was able to bridge the gap and offer students industry insights,” Jia Han said.

His team completed their program at Murray Goulburn in Cobram. “We looked at modifying the raw ingredients, changing the amount of calcium and homogenisation pressure,” Jia Han said. “We found that we had success by modifying the drying condition. By changing the vibratory fluid bed operating conditions, we had some success in improving the solubility of the product.”

His first job after finishing university was in Morwell, working for Lion Dairy and Drinks. “Moving from the city to the country took some adapting, but I love the country now,” Jia Han said. “A lot of students are based in the city and wouldn’t have thought of exploring the opportunities available in regional Victoria. MITI helps overcome the fear of the unknown and encourages students to explore what regional areas have to offer.”

Jia Han was born and raised in Malaysia and studied part of his bachelor’s degree at Monash’s Sunway campus and all of his PhD at the Clayton campus. “It’s great that the MITI program is open to international students, because they struggle to get the same opportunities as domestic students,” he said.

Since it began in 2014, over 200 students have been exposed to the dairy industry through the MITI program. These students have gained invaluable exposure to relevant learning opportunities that relate specifically to their studies while at the same time, acquiring hands-on practical experience.

For more information on the program, please visit