The New Zealand apple and pear-growing industry has given Karla Bradley a career that excites and challenges her.
Pipfruit manager for Kono Horticulture in Motueka, Karla has embraced new challenges and responsibilities on her way up through the industry.
“The best thing about a career in horticulture is that there are so many avenues to go down and managers tend to be really supportive to give you opportunities to find your strengths and interests in the industry.”
Karla completed her apprenticeship with Easton Apples after starting as a tree trainer. She worked up to orchard supervisor, where she was responsible for supervising teams of staff working on tree training and thinning.
Next she became head of quality control, ensuring the best possible apples were sent from harvest to the packhouse.
“I was pretty young to be in that role and I was working with people a lot older than me. I think I was quite naive to what other people thought of me, but my age and being female were not problems and the opportunities were still there for me.”
Karla says at school she excelled at maths and accounting but found it hard to sit still, so a career in accounting wasn’t right for her. She was also a sport fanatic and naturally coordinated, which helps her in her active role.
“Some people think if they get a job in pipfruit they’ll be pruning trees for the rest of their life, but there’s a whole world of different roles and opportunities. There’s the marketing side of it, the research and development side, and many different managing roles.”
Karla joined Kono – an iwi-owned horticulture producer of kiwifruit, hops and pipfruit – in 2012. She quickly moved up the ranks from head of quality control to manager for the company’s pipfruit interests.
There’s no chance to get bored, says Karla.
“There are constant learning opportunities in this industry. I left school early but wasn’t ready to stop learning and this industry offers a lot of practical tertiary training. It’s a constant evolution; there’s always new technology, new equipment, which keeps things interesting. Just as you think you know it all, something changes.”
Growing human potential as well as pipfruitAs well as her role managing pipfruit for Kono, Karla is studying for her Diploma of Horticulture through Lincoln University. She studies with a tutor twice a week and works hard to learn and apply her new knowledge to her role.
She’s happy to have found an industry and an organisation which supports her ambitions and goals.
“Every year I look back and am so surprised with how much further along in my career I’ve got. Sometimes I look back and I can’t believe they trusted me and believed in me each step of the way to now managing all the apples and pears for Kono. I’m quite young to be in this role, but the responsibilities and opportunities were always there; and they’re still there so I want to keep going up the ladder.”
Check out the careers pathway for pipfruit industry workers.Download careers pathway (PDF 940KB)