During apprenticeship week, we are looking at how apprentices have developed within their own job roles and careers. I spoke to Jason Hilliard, who is in his 5th year of the Food Industry Technical Professional Degree Apprenticeship.
Jason changed employers during his apprenticeship and in November 2021 started working at ABP. The company is one of Europe’s leading food processors, who provide quality beef to thousands of customers across the world. Jason is the Primary Butchery Training Manager, where he supports overseas workers integrate into the workplace, upskills existing staff and also looks after the butchery apprentices. Jason is the point of contact for the apprentices and provides support through training them new knowledge and skills and also offers pastoral support. Jason will try to be empathetic and see issues from the apprentices’ point of view, drawing on his own experience. Apprentices tend to be 17- 18-year olds and this is their first job, so time is often spent supporting them in understanding the work environment and working with others.
Jason said that his own experience as an apprentice has meant he will share his knowledge to give a wider view of the organisation and different departments within the company. He understands the importance of providing off the job training opportunities and makes sure that this takes place during the week. He has designed and delivered training to the apprentices and continues to develop his own skills in teaching and training through this.
The Food Industry Technical Professional Degree apprenticeship is integrated, which means the final Honours research project for the degree is also the end point assessment for the apprenticeship. Jason has started to plan this final project, which will be about the staff shortages within the meat industry and whether apprenticeships would help address this. He said that within the business, they are hoping to provide career paths for apprentices into different roles within the company, including leadership and management roles, as a way of succession planning.
According to the BMPA (British Meat Processors Association), approximately 97,000 people are employed within the meat processing industry and 62% of these are EU nationals. The industry is worth £11 billion to the UK economy. There has been a perception of the meat industry for a long time that it is low paid, highly demanding and a challenging environment. Although a large percentage of people eat meat in the UK, a lot would find it difficult to work within the meat industry, due to its’ nature. Knock-on effects of staff shortages within the industry have large impact on the supply chain, farmers, retailers and consumers so finding a solution to the problem is imperative. ABP recognise this are looking for ways of attracting people into the industry. Jason’s project will provide important insight and research into this problem and potentially make recommendations for improvements at the Shrewsbury ABP site.
Jason’s own experience of the apprenticeship has helped him progress within his career; he also said that he has gained wider skills such as delivering presentations. This was very daunting to begin with, but he has gained more confidence. He said he knows it’s OK to be nervous about it, but will now stand up in front of his peers and the apprentices he trains to deliver presentations or teaching sessions. He also said that research skills have been useful, as he knows how to find reliable information and present this if needed. Part of an apprenticeship is learning to balance work, life and study. Jason said this was difficult to start with, but he has definitely got better at planning. He said it has been harder than he thought – when he started, his son was 5 years old. He is now 10 and demands more of Jason’s time! He has learned to balance work and study but also giving himself time for “guilty pleasures”, as this is important too!
When training apprentices, Jason tries to support them in becoming critical thinkers. This has stemmed from his own learning on the apprenticeship and finding that you learn more when making contributions to the session.
Jason has clearly developed new knowledge, skills and behaviours while on the apprenticeship programme that are helping his own career and also helping to nurture others at the start of their career journey.
The curriculum for the Food Industry Technical Professional degree apprenticeship is changing for 2023 and will reflect changes within the industry and the skills employers need for the future workforce. The meat industry is just one part of the largest manufacturing sector in the UK and offers opportunities for a wide range of careers. If you want to find out more about degree apprenticeships in this dynamic and evolving industry, get in touch to find out more: