Note: Completion of a TAFE SA course does not guarantee an employment outcome. Formal requirements other than educational qualifications (eg licensing, professional registration), may apply to some occupations.

Job Prospects
Openings 5 years to November 2018 -- Factory Workers, Food & Drink: 10,001 to 25,000
Median weekly earnings: $1,208.
Source 2020
There are approximately 19 cheese makers in South Australia. As well as a growing Artisan cheese sector.

TAFE SA courses that may be relevant for: Cheesemaker

Accredited (Award)

  • Cheese making is a craft with a science basis. It combines the science of fermentation and microbiology with the craft of producing the best product.

    Gone are the days of eating boring old cheddar cheese sandwiches! Cheesemakers in South Australia are now making a vast range of cheeses using cow, goat or sheep's milk. Cheesemakers turn raw milk into cheese using biochemical and microbiological means. Firstly, the raw milk is pasteurised (heated) in a large vat to kill the bacteria from the animal. Controlled cultures or bacteria are added which begin to ferment the milk sugar into lactic acid. The bacteria literally feed off the lactose and produce lactic acid as a waste material. The type of cheese made depends on the bacteria or moulds used (e.g. moulds are added to make blue cheese). Different cheeses need different types of bacteria as starters. The consistency of the cheese product comes from using the same techniques and using bacteria, which have been freeze dried in specialist laboratories.

    Practical and ManualScientific

  • There are no formal educational qualifications needed to become a cheesemaker.

    TAFE SA offer the following courses to help you find employment in this occupation: Certificate III Program in Food Processing (Artisan Cheese).

    Still unsure? Then try a short course also offered through TAFE SA. Check the website for the full list of short courses.

  • Food Processing and Manufacturing Industry

  • For hard cheeses, rennet (a coagulant) is added which causes the milk to set or clot. The clots are then broken up with wire frames or knives (mechanically or by hand) which allow the whey to separate from the curd. The curd has the appearance of jelly and is put into moulds (or hoops) before it is put into the warm room (40 degrees) for several hours. ''It is the curd that becomes the cheese. If you don't separate the curd from the whey you end up with yoghurt instead,'' says one cheese maker. The cheese remains in the moulds until the right acid levels in the cheese have been achieved. Then the cheese is refrigerated and salted (put in a brine solution) since the bacteria stops growing at these conditions. Cheese draws out the salt from the brine and this gives it its characteristic salty flavour (fetta draws out more salt and is hence saltier). Soft cheeses like ricotta don't get put into the brine solution. In a large factory, the whole process is computerised. Even the recipe is programmed into a computer! For cheddar production, the curd goes onto a draining belt where it is stirred, agitated, de-wheyed and then milled (like potato chips) and salted before being vacuum sucked to block formers (which are like large moulds holding 680 kilos of cheese each).

  • Cheesemakers need to be able to work effectively as part of a small team. An interest and an aptitude for microbiology, chemistry and maths would also be beneficial. As cheese is a living product, expect to work all hours of the day and night. In smaller factories there can also be some heavy lifting involved when the cheeses are turned (imagine lifting a 20 kilo block of fetta!). Be also prepared to work in temperatures varying from 40 degrees to 4 degrees Celsius.

    Extreme hygiene is paramount in this occupation as bad bacteria, such as listeria, can also grow in these conditions. ''Cheesemakers need to observe good hygiene. There's lots of cleaning and sterilisation involved and we have to fog the atmosphere with chlorine. You also have to wear white coats, white rubber boots and a hair net all day,'' says one cheesemaker. The PH level (acidity level) is measured constantly throughout the cheese-making process using a PH meter and taking swabs to test for the presence of dangerous bacteria. Cheesemakers are also involved in tasting and grading the cheeses. ''With experience, a cheesemaker can taste a cheese and be able to work out what the PH level is,'' he says.

  • In the larger cheese businesses cheesemakers operate a wide range of mechanised equipment, often from a sophisticated control room. They need to have a keen eye for observing and recording the production process. They also must supervise and carry out the cleaning, sanitation and preparation of equipment. In small factories using traditional methods, there is a lot of skilled manual work.

    For further information, contact:

    Artisan Cheese Making Academy Australia (ACMAA)
    137 Days Road
    Phone: (08) 8348 4300
    Fax: (08) 83484294 Phone: (08) 8223 2277

    Dairy Authority of South Australia
    33 Hutt St Adelaide SA 5000
    Phone: (08) 8223 2277
    Fax: (08) 8232 2463