Food processing worker

What they do

Food processing workers operate machinery and perform other routine tasks involved in manufacturing and/or processing a range of food and drink products. The specific activities involved in food processing will vary depending on the product. Food may be sliced, ground, mixed, dried, cooked, baked, frozen, chilled, packaged or passed through a combination of these processes before it is ready for distribution. Food processing workers are responsible for operating the machines that carry out these processes, and monitoring the progress and quality of food products. They may also check and weigh raw materials, before adding them to the process. These workers must also ensure that a work environment is kept clean and hygienic.

Working conditions

Most food processing workers are employed in the Perth metropolitan region. However, there are significant employment opportunities for grain mill workers in the Wheatbelt, and for dairy processing workers in the South West region. The work environment may be noisy, dusty, wet, slippery, hot or cold, depending on the particular product and manufacturing processes being carried out. A high level of hygiene and cleanliness is always required when working with any food product. These workers are required to regularly wash their hands with anti-bacterial soap and wear protective clothing including hair nets, gloves, masks and overalls, which will help avoid contaminating products.

Tools and technologies

Food processing workers use a variety of machinery for most processing and packaging tasks. Most factories have conveyor belts, labellers and packaging equipment, as well as more specialised machinery for particular products. Food processing workers will also use cleaning equipment, such as high pressure hoses and chemicals to ensure that machinery is kept clean and hygienic. In some cases, they may also use forklifts and trolleys to move raw materials and finished products around a factory.

How do I become one?

Education and training

It is possible to work as a food processing worker without any formal qualifications and get training on the job. However, entry into this occupation may be improved by obtaining a qualification in food processing or a related area.

The Certificate II and III in Food Processing are available at registered training organisations throughout Western Australia. Browse courses through Jobs and Skills WA and search on the My Skills website to find a registered provider near you.

You can also undertake a traineeship in food processing (level 2 or level 3). The traineeships usually take 12 to 24 months to complete and the level 2 traineeship is available as a school-based traineeship.

Apprenticeships and traineeships

As an apprentice or trainee, you enter into a formal training contract with an employer, enabling you to complete training towards a nationally recognised qualification. You spend  time working and learning practical skills on the job and you spend some time undertaking structured training with a registered training provider.

You can do an apprenticeship or traineeship if you are a school-leaver, re-entering the workforce or as an adult or mature-aged person wishing to change careers. You can even begin your apprenticeship or traineeship while you're still at school.

If you are still at school you can access an apprenticeship through your school. Talk to your school's VET Co-ordinator to start your training now through VET in Schools. If you are no longer at school you can apply for an apprenticeship or traineeship and get paid while you learn and work.