Ever since beginning his study at Monash University, Lahiru Perera had never left the big smoke of Melbourne.
But after jumping at the chance to join the Monash Industry Team Initiative program, run by the Gardiner Dairy Foundation and Monash University, he found himself in Strathmerton for three months completing an internship at Bega Cheese.
Knowing that industry experience was important but opportunities were limited, Mr Perera decided to apply for a place in the program in his final year of a double degree in chemical engineering and biomedical science.
‘‘In my final year of studies in August 2016, they advertised all positions in the MITI program,’’ he said.
‘‘There was so many different employers, there were ads for internships at Devondale Murray Goulburn, Burra Foods and Bega — they were the main ones.
‘‘I applied for both Bega and Burra. My initial application was for Bega in Coburg as I was interested in the program they had over there.
‘‘We had group interviews and they asked me whether I would mind moving for three months. I thought it would be a good challenge to live away from the city.
‘‘I was teamed up with two others and that’s how the journey started for me.’’
Gardiner Dairy Foundation chief executive officer Mary Harney said the program motivated students to consider a future career in the dairy industry.
‘‘As part of our commitment to investing in the vibrant future of the dairy industry, we have collaborated with Monash University for the past three years to provide industry access to young and innovative minds while offering students unique insights into a career path they may have never considered otherwise,’’ she said.
Mr Perera was all praise for the MITI program.
‘‘Especially when students graduate, it is very difficult to get a graduate position.
‘‘The MITI program, which started three years ago, has been very successful. Each year the number of applicants has increased. It has been very popular.
‘‘People who have worked away from the city at places like Bega or Warnambool Cheese and Butter got positives out of it. I thoroughly support the initiative.’’
While Mr Perera had very little knowledge of the dairy industry before he started, his passion for the field grew as his internship went on.
‘‘I had no idea of the dairying industry at all. It was a big challenge.
‘‘We learned about the order of production, the different products Bega has and what each machine does.
‘‘By the end of the three months, I had learned so much about the company and the industry.
‘‘It (the program) is a great opportunity to gain industry experience ... I have got a job out of it at Bega in Coburg.’’