A record 650 Modern Apprenticeships (MAs) have been supported in the food and drink sector during the past year, education secretary Michael Russell announced at the show, with 249 of those coming under the banner of Scottish Meat Training.
Skills Development Scotland supported 650 MAs in food manufacture, agricultural crops and livestock, bakery and the meat industry from April 2009 to March 2010. This compared to a total of 49 MAs the previous year.
Douglas Scott, chief executive of the Scottish Federation of Meat Traders Association (SFMTA), said that butchers had seized the opportunity offered by the MA programme and saw it as an important tool in the provision of quality training for the workforce. "Meat skills are among the few remaining craft skills and it is important for the success of the meat industry that they are kept alive and demonstrated by people employed in the industry," he said.
"It is increasingly acknowledged that the strength of the independent butcher is local sourcing, careful maturation and quality products, but it is equally important to invest in your staff. They are your greatest asset and with personal service skills, knowledgeable advice and sharp craft skills this provides a great advantage over the competition.
"It is fantastic to see such a response to the opportunities that exist to allow every employee access to training and the potential to receive recognition through formal qualifications. Scottish butchers' businesses have made a very serious commitment to training and, along with their employees, they can reap the rewards of their success."
The MA includes an SVQ Level 2 qualification in Meat and Poultry Processing Skills or Butchery Retail Skills. SFMTA's training arm, Scottish Meat Training, has subsequently recruited another training assessor, Gordon Newlands from Selkirk, to cope with the growing demand.
This year, up to 20,000 MAs and more than 40,000 training opportunities overall are on offer to support all sectors of the Scottish economy, including food and drink, Russell added.