£800k of training grants up for grabs

£800,000 worth of grants for food and farming business training remains up for grabs under the AgriFood Advanced Training Partnership (AATP), with previous beneficiaries reporting big benefits.

The cash comes from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and AATP manager Deborah Kendale said the remaining pot had to be allocated by the end of 2016.

“The feedback from those who have taken advantage of the funding available for training to aid their professional development has been fantastic,” said Kendale.

“We know that they have taken what they learned back to their business and are using the skills gained with the AATP to innovate and drive agriculture and the food supply chain forward, which is exactly what this money was intended for.”

Chris Roddis, protein expert at chilled food firm Greencore, said funding he received through the scheme helped him get to grips with gaps in his knowledge of meat science and meat quality.

Roddis has a degree in malting and brewing and worked in the brewing industry for six years, following that with a similar amount of time in malt extract production.

After a stint in rice production, Roddis moved on to work at Greencore, formerly known as Hazlewood Foods. “Most of the problems I was working on were with bread and produce,” he told Meat Trades Journal. “Greencore decided it needed someone to look after meat at a group level.”

The cash enabled him to take up an AATP course covering the technical aspects of meat production at the University of Nottingham’s Sutton Bonington campus.

He praised the level of detail it went into about meat production and the involvement of industry experts, claiming: “I certainly ask harder questions of suppliers than I used to and I also challenge retailers more than I did.

“It has given me a lot more confidence and as a result we’ve had a lot of successes in redefining our meat sourcing and meat specifications because I now understand what affects the quality.

“I understand the processes, so I can have a conversation if retailers are asking for treatment or controls that are not appropriate for our sort of product.”

Roddis said the modular training, which he heard about from Greencore group technical director Helen Sisson, had given him greater credibility with suppliers and retailers. “I’m doing one or two two-week units a year. Last year I covered meat science and quality. This year I’m doing poultry health.”

More than 1,000 awards worth a total of £1.2m have been given to those working in agriculture and the food supply chain through the AATP scheme.

Courses range from one-day workshops to post-graduate diplomas and trainees say they helped them boost sales, develop new products and solve business problems. Training is flexible, includes online modules and can be fitted around the working day.

The AATP programme was launched three years ago and offers a bursary of 50% towards the cost of courses covering areas ranging from plant science and feed nutrition to food manufacturing and business leadership.

There are nearly 100 courses appealing to a wide range of farming sectors and the supply chain.

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