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Business Merthyr Tydfil South Wales

Apprenticeships providing food company with an appetite for more

CREATING its own internal trainers to develop the next generation of employees has been central to the success of building a skilled workforce at a major Merthyr Tydfil employer.

Kepak Group Limited is investing in its own talent and facilities as part of a fresh learning and development strategy, with a blueprint for skills development, apprenticeships, succession planning and management development.

“This process quickly became the framework that took unskilled employees to semi-skilled employees in just three months,” said Jeremy Jones, HR operations manager UK for the international food company that specialises in meat production at its Merthyr Tydfil operation.

“From here they progress directly onto an apprenticeship with Cambrian Training Company. The programme links directly to our training matrix in each department with at least 17 tasks required by each apprentice to become fully skilled.”

Now Kepak Group has been shortlisted for the Large and Macro Employer of the Year Award at the prestigious Apprenticeship Awards Cymru 2022. The winners will be announced at a virtual awards ceremony on November 10.

The awards highlight the outstanding achievements, during unprecedented times, of employers, apprentices and work-based learning practitioners.

Highlight of the year for apprentices, employers and work-based learning providers and practitioners, the awards are organised by the Welsh Government and supported by the National Training Federation for Wales (NTfW). Headline sponsor for the third year is Openreach.

Kepak adopted this new work-based training approach just 18 months ago, but the company has already benefited from a 15% reduction in staff turnover and first-generation apprentices are already moving up to more senior roles.

Forty employees are currently undergoing apprenticeships that include Meat and Poultry Industry Skills (Levels 2 and 3), Food Industry Skills (Levels 2 and 3), Food Team Leading (Level 2), Food Management (Level 3), Food Manufacturing Excellence (Level 4), and Management (Level 4 and 5). All courses are overseen by Cambrian Training Company.

The apprenticeships have resulted in an upturn in both performance and profits in departments where apprentices are learning their trade, with off-the-job trainers overseeing their development and creating individual learning plans in coordination with their training provider.

With over 800 employees on its books, the company has ambitious plans to increase learner numbers to around 100 undertaking an apprenticeship at any one time. This will include new staff, existing staff undertaking new roles and apprentices progressing onto the next level apprenticeship.

The strategy has been developed with Cambrian Training Company and Chris Jones, head of the company’s business unit for food manufacture, said: “Kepak are quite simply 100% committed to the apprenticeship programme and to their staff.

“They are investing in their staff and the local community to build solid foundations for the future and should be used as a blueprint of how to approach apprenticeship training to sustain a workforce for life.”

Congratulating Kepak Group and all the other shortlisted finalists, Economy Minister Vaughan Gething said: “Apprenticeships make a huge contribution to our economy and will be crucial as Wales continues to bounce back from the pandemic.

“They can help futureproof, motivate and diversify a workforce, offering people the chance to gain high-quality vocational skills.

“As part of our Young Person’s Guarantee, the Welsh Government will be investing £366 million over the next three years to deliver 125,000 all-age apprenticeships across Wales during the current term of government.

“We want to increase opportunities for people of all ages and backgrounds to develop transferable skills in the workplace and improve their lives. The investment will also help tackle skills shortages and gaps in priority sectors critical to drive productivity and economic growth, supporting our net zero ambitions, the every-day foundational economy and public services.”

The Apprenticeship Programme is funded by the Welsh Government with support from the European Social Fund. For more information about recruiting an apprentice, visit: https://gov.wales/apprenticeships-genius-decision or call 03000 603000.

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