Bespoke training scheme benefits butchers

Hundreds of staff from butchery businesses across England have benefited from a £1m fund to provide training courses designed by employers for their specific needs.

Walter Smith Fine Foods, which has 15 butchers’ and farm shops throughout the Midlands, is administering the delivery of a range of training courses through the Employer Leadership programme. Employers taking part pay a contribution of, on average, 30% of the costs, with the rest coming from the fund, provided by UK Commission of Employment and Skills (UKCES).

The first year of the three-year programme has just finished, with £250,000 of the £1m pot spent to date.

So far 65 employers have received training for their staff, 460 learners have attended a training session, 600 training sessions have taken place, and 41 courses have been developed and delivered.

Sessions already delivered include coaching and mentoring; IT skills; customer service; allergen awareness; poultry hygiene; farm and abattoir visits; and product development.

Roger Beasley, owner of Dudley-based Williams Butchers said training could sometimes be hard and time-consuming, but the scheme had been helpful for him and his staff. “The project is superb as it takes that problem off your hands, giving training exactly where you need it most at a very small cost, which gives you more time to run your company.”

Apprentice Nichola Bishton attended a Level 3 food safety course supported by the project. “Having already received Level 2 food safety training, the further, broader knowledge gained in Level 3 has greatly benefited both me and my company,” she said. “The session was made enjoyable by the tutor and I have implemented what I have learned.”

Terry Fennell, group operations director at the Food and Drink Training and Education Council (ftc), who has worked closely with Walter Smith Fine Foods on the project, told MTJ the scheme was working well for employers because it allowed them to tailor courses specifically to the needs of their business.

He said the ethos of the project tied in with the government’s current thinking on training, which is that “employers will pay if the training is of sound quality and bespoke to their needs”, and replaces previous schemes where employers didn’t have to contribute financially. This ideology is also behind the development of the new Trailblazer apprenticeship standards, which will come into play next month partly funded by employers, and, said Fennell, “supports the notion of the apprentice levy proposal set out in last month’s budget”. The levy will impose a tax on large employers (although the government is yet to define large) to pay for apprenticeships and is due to come into force in 2017.

The Walter Smith scheme runs until March 2017 and butchery businesses can apply to receive personalised training, accredited and non-accredited training, augmentation of existing apprenticeships, traineeships and support in recruitment of apprentices and trainees.

Businesses wishing to discuss training requirements or the funding available can contact the project team on 01902 837452 or

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