A few years ago, Peter Brennan’s experience of country Victoria started and ended with a visit to Ballarat’s Sovereign Hill.

As for the dairy industry, he knew it involved cows and milk but that’s about all.

Today, the Monash University graduate who had spent most of his life in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs is living happily in Korumburra and making his mark on long-term planning for the dairy industry.

Peter’s metamorphosis follows his three-month placement at Burra Foods as part of the Monash Industry Team Initiative (MITI) in partnership with the Gardiner Dairy Foundation.

“That was my first dairy experience,” he admits. “I spent most of my life in Melbourne and didn’t know anything about the dairy industry.”

Peter was completing his Masters of Applied Econometrics when he successfully applied for the MITI program, which is supported by the Gardiner Dairy Foundation to build the capacity and capability of the Victorian dairy industry’s people resources.

“My main focus is business forecasting, statistics and economic modelling and my undergraduate degree was chemical engineering, which is a large focus of the dairy industry,” Peter said.

He initially applied for a job in San Francisco but when that didn’t eventuate, Peter took up the MITI placement at Korumburra, helping Burra Foods to implement a human resource management program over the summer of 2016-17.

After the three-month placement, Peter was asked to stay on to finish implementing the program. He then successfully applied for a job as a supply planning analyst, a perfect fit with his training and a role that ensures Burra Foods can meet long-term customer demands.

Peter admits moving from the city to the small Gippsland town was initially difficult.

“It was a bit hard at the start and I was still driving back to Melbourne most weekends, but it meant I focused on work during the week which was really good for my career,” he said.

He’s now spending more time in Korumburra, has joined a social barefoot lawn bowls competition with a co-worker and is enjoying the country hospitality and professional development opportunities.

“I’ve gained so much experience working at Burra; I’ve always been given lots of responsibility. I’ve still got a lot to learn about the dairy industry but I know a lot more now than three or four years ago.”

Peter has also discovered the benefits of country living and has no plans to leave Korumburra.

“I’m about to move house and I’ve had six people from work volunteer to help me move, and someone has called someone who’s lending us a truck for the weekend free of charge. That’s what has made it really easy. I didn’t know anyone at the start but everyone is so friendly.”

The MITI program was expanded to include the dairy industry by the Gardiner Dairy Foundation and Monash University after manufacturers identified that they faced challenges in attracting highly skilled young employees to work in regionally based facilities. Engineers were particularly sought after.

Now in its fifth year the MITI program adds value to the Victorian dairy industry by exposing some of the best and brightest students to the sophistication of the Victorian dairy industry as a potential career prospect and helping to attract high calibre individuals to work in sophisticated jobs in a thriving industry based in regional Victoria.