LEARNING and development are at the heart of the largest meat processing plant and abattoir in Wales which has more than 800 employees.

Kepak is using its St Merryn Merthyr operation to develop a blueprint for skills development, apprenticeships, succession planning and management development across the business, which has 15 sites across the UK and Ireland.

This commitment to learning the development has resulted in the company being named Large Employer of the Year at the annual Apprenticeship, Employment and Skills Awards organised by Cambrian Training Company, one of Wales’ leading apprenticeship providers.

Jeremy Jones, Kepak’s HR operations manager UK, said: “We are delighted to have won this award.  It is real recognition for our training team who have created a customised and effective development programme that complements the company’s succession plan. 

“Kepak is strongly committed to supporting staff to build knowledge, skills and fruitful careers and Cambrian Training have been true partners in making that commitment a reality.”

Fifteen employers and learners who have excelled in apprenticeship, skills and employment training programmes delivered by Cambrian Training were shortlisted for the awards.

Winners of each category will have the chance to be put forward for the prestigious Apprenticeship Awards Cymru, which are jointly organised by the National Training Federation for Wales and the Welsh Government.

Kepak’s Merthyr Tydfil site comprises two abattoirs, beef and lamb boning halls and a retail and distribution operation.

Cambrian Training Company works closely with Kepak to tailor apprenticeships to meet the specific needs of the business. Apprenticeships ranging from levels 2 to 4 are delivered in Meat and Poultry Industry Skills, Food Industry Skills, Food Team Leading, Food Management, Food Manufacturing Excellence and Management.

Staff complete Kepak’s three-month in-house skills development programme before progressing to an apprenticeship and they each must complete a minimum of 40 training activities and assessments. Forty-five apprentices were included in the first cohort and others will gradually be added.

“Skills development is fundamental to the success of our business,” said John Eagle, Kepak’s training co-ordinator. “Developing our own talent is at the core of Kepak’s learning and development strategy.

“There have been several examples of personal growth and development from a number of our apprentices who have successfully been promoted into responsible supervisory roles or into new roles within the business.”

Employees who have developed new skills and improved their pace and quality of work have been rewarded with incremental pay increases.

“We see our relationship with Cambrian Training as very much long term and aim to upskill as many of our staff as we can to put ourselves in a much stronger position to that of our competitors,” added Mr Eagle.

Katy Godsell, Cambrian Training Company’s marketing manager, congratulated Kepak and all the award winners, emphasising the high calibre of finalists.

“These awards celebrate the achievements of those who have exceeded expectations during their engagement and commitment to their apprenticeship training and skills programmes,” she said.

“They have shown a unique approach to apprenticeship training and development and demonstrated initiative and enterprise, innovation and creativity during a challenging past 18 months.”

With offices in Welshpool, Holyhead, Colwyn Bay, Llanelli and Llanelwedd, Cambrian Training Company delivers work-based apprenticeships across Wales.

The Apprenticeship Programme in Wales is funded by the Welsh Government with support from the European Social Fund.