ALTO is one of New Zealand’s leading rigid plastic packaging companies, with eight plants in New Zealand and four in Australia. These plants employ more than 600 people and specialise in extrusion and thermoforming, blow moulding and injection moulding.

ALTO is part of Pact Group – a dynamic manufacturer of specialty packaging solutions servicing both consumer and industrial sectors throughout the world. A career at Pact is an opportunity to join a team committed to sustainability and the drive to lead the global Circular Economy through packaging and recycling solutions.

Former Melville High School student Serena Den Hertog recently joined the team at ALTO in Hamilton as an apprentice toolmaker. She lifts the lid on what she loves about becoming a tool maker…

serena Den Hertog

Apprentice toolmaker



Top Career Tip

“Don’t let others tell you which career you should choose, especially if you are a female looking at a male-dominated industry. Find something you are passionate about and go for it!”

A Chat with serena about her role

Serena Den Hertog
Apprentice Toolmaker
Former Melville High School student

What got you interested in this role and how did you get the job?

When I was in high school, I just loved being in the workshop – it felt like a second home. I did a trades course in mechanical engineering at Vision College and my mum had a friend who works here. That’s how I got my name out and from there I proved to them that I was suited for this job.

What do you do at work?

So far, I’ve been taking apart moulds and cleaning them out. I’ve also been working alongside co-workers and helping them with tasks they need done. At this stage I’m just learning as much as I can. I am learning about new machines and finding out what goes on behind the scenes. I love all the little details.

What sort of person do you need to be for this type of work?
  • Strong-minded
  • Have the ability to work alone or as part of a team
  • Have good attention to detail
  • Accurate
  • Have good hand-eye co-ordination
  • A great communicator
What have you learnt on the job?

I’ve learnt the basics of machining and a lot about health and safety. There’s been so much going on since I started. I’ve just been learning so much.

What do you wish you knew when you left school?

School isn’t everything. You go on and there are so many more options. Once you get out there, there is so much out there in the world!

What does someone need to know when starting out at work?

It’s going to be tough! The hours seem long if you’re not used to them. It’s not like school, where you can be on your phone all the time. Work is work and you’ve just got to put your mind to it and get through.

What advice do you have for keeping balanced and managing stress?

Have a good routine. Sleep is important, as well as having a social life to keep you sane.

Where would you like to go with your career?

To finish my four-year toolmaking apprenticeship, get my certificate, and work my way up to a managing role in this company.

More about toolmaking

A toolmaker makes high precision tools, such as moulds and dies, guides and holding devices, which are used in the manufacturing process to make products. At ALTO those products could be any of a huge range of plastic packaging products, from ice-cream containers, make-up jars and bottles to large drums, and everything in between!

Toolmakers work with a range of materials, including metals and alloys, to make moulds, dies or jigs, as well as holding or guide devices. These are used in the manufacturing process. The toolmaker will keep an eye on the tool to see if it needs to be improved or repaired.

Tasks on the job might include:

  • Following drawings to measure out tool designs
  • Assembling, repairing and fitting tools
  • Using hand tools
  • Using machinery to cut and shape tools
  • Using precision equipment for measuring
  • Using computer aided software (CAD)
  • Monitoring tools to identify repairs or improvements
  • Repairing and problem solving
  • Tool maintenance
  • Paperwork

we asked serena a few more questions about working at alto 

What do you like most about working at ALTO?

I’ve always liked perfecting things and it’s just so satisfying getting something on point. I like that you have to be a bit of a perfectionist here.

Have you had to overcome any challenges?

Not too many yet, but I’m sure with future challenges my co-workers will show me the way. A lot of them have been here most of their working life, since they were my age.

useful subjects

  • Maths
  • Science
  • Engineering
  • “I found a trades course is helpful to have under your belt and to get you where you need to be”


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