Food dream alive and cooking for HVTC trainee

Unlike most high school students, Danika Elley has always been certain of her long-term career goals.

The 18-year-old has always dreamt of opening her own café and deli in Coffs Harbour, where she can showcase local produce and sell her own range of specialty food products.

During school Danika took an important first step towards making this goal a reality by applying to complete a Cert II Hospitality School-based Traineeship with HVTC North Coast and Mater Christi Sawtell Catholic Care of the Aged.

“Initially I applied for a school-based traineeship because I wanted to pursue a career in the food industry and thought a traineeship was the best way to get a foot in the door,” she said.

“For as long as I can remember I wanted to work in the hospitality industry. I’ve always enjoyed cooking so originally I wanted to be a chef, but as I learnt more about food development and the processes behind getting products from the kitchen to the shelf, I knew this was the area I wanted to pursue.

“I chose to work in a production kitchen rather than a restaurant kitchen as I felt it would expose me to more facets of food product development and in doing so I have learnt a lot about packaging, labelling and storage requirements of production processes and how all of this contributes to the planning of meals.”

With HSC exams now the final hurdle towards completing Year 12, Danika is eagerly awaiting to hear if she has been accepted into the William Angliss Institute (WAI) in Melbourne. If successful, Danika will complete a Diploma of Food Science and Technology and build on the knowledge and skills she has gained during her traineeship.

“I believe a school-based traineeship is a valuable pathway to my chosen career as I will complete high school with an HSC, a Cert II in Hospitality and an ATAR. The combination of these will put me a step ahead of other people who may be interested in the same career path or applying for the same course,” she said.

“I believe that doing a school-based traineeship is an enriching experience that can further the career goals and aspirations of any senior student.”

Danika also has another advantage over competitors having recently won School-Based Apprentice/Trainee of the Year at the 2018 NSW & ACT Group Training Awards, which were announced in Sydney on October 12.

“It feels pretty surreal to have won School-Based Apprentice/Trainee of the Year. I love my job and it’s pretty cool to be recognised for doing something I love,” she said.

“I get to work with some really knowledgeable people who have more years of experience in the industry than the number of years I’ve been alive!”

Assistant Manager of the Mater Christi kitchen, Tracey Herbert, described Danika as an enthusiastic individual destined to have a successful career in the food industry.

“Danika is a quick learner and puts in a lot of effort and thought into everything she does. You can see she absolutely loves her work and is inspired to cook and create whatever she puts her mind to,” she said.

“Easily adapting to our busy environment, Danika always puts in 100 per cent, whether supervised or not, and never ceases to surprise us with her talents and willingness to learn.

“I can see already that she will go a long way in life and do extremely well. It would not surprise me if I end up working for her one day as she is very driven and passionate about her work. She will definitely end up with a career in the food industry of some description.

“Danika has been our first trainee and she was so keen that we felt we needed to give her a chance. We all have to start somewhere so why not encourage our younger generation and help them to seek their dreams.”

HVTC North Coast trainee Danika Elley holding a tray of scones she prepared in the kitchen for host employer Mater Christi Sawtell Catholic Care of the Aged