Rylee Funk

New Zealand Certificate in Cellar Operations Level 3

Marlborough lab technician and cellarhand Rylee Funk is the first person to graduate with a national qualification to upskill workers in the Kiwi wine industry.

Rylee, 24, works at Lawson’s Dry Hills in Blenheim and has recently completed the New Zealand Certificate in Cellar Operations Level 3, a qualification designed by Competenz.

Originally from Canada, Rylee was travelling New Zealand when she landed a temporary job at Lawson’s. A few harvests later, she had a permanent position. “At first it was just a chance to do something different, and it turned into a job I really enjoyed.”

As a lab technician and cellarhand, Rylee works across all aspects of the winemaking process – pressing, inoculating, transferring, racking, testing and bottling wine. She also supervises seasonal workers when the winery is operating at full capacity during harvest.

The level 3 qualification provides a basic understanding of the wine industry, knowledge about legislation such as food safety and health and safety, team work and regular cellar operations. It takes about 12 months to complete.

For Rylee, it was a chance to formalise her skills and knowledge. “It helped me learn about the reasons why we do what we do. I knew that we needed to add things to the wine, and follow processes for hygiene, I learnt a lot more theory about winemaking,” says Rylee.

Senior winemaker Marcus Wright says the qualification gives structure and focus to what is learnt on the job. “The qualifications can turn a job into a career,” says Marcus. Competenz also offers New Zealand Certificates in Cellar Operations at Level 4 and Level 5.

“If you love working in wine and you’re thinking about it, definitely do it. You get to learn off the winemakers, and you get a qualification at the end of it,” advises Rylee.