Expanding international food company Kepak Group, named Large Employer of the Year at last year’s Apprenticeship Awards Cymru, is encouraging entries for this year’s prestigious awards which are launched today (May 18).
The apprenticeship model developed at Kepak St Merryn in Merthyr Tydfil has been so successful that it is being replicated across the business which has bases in Ireland, Scotland and England.
Kepak St Merryn is in the process of recruiting another 180 employees over the next nine months which will boost the workforce to around 1,000. The company says the opportunity to develop careers through apprenticeships is a big incentive and improves staff retention.
The company has 52 current apprentices and another 12 have completed their apprenticeships. Kepak is working towards having 100 apprentices at any one time to grow its own skilled workforce.
Jeremy Jones, Kepak Group’s UK human resources operations manager, said: “Winning the award last year was the icing on the cake and has given Kepak St Merryn the confidence and enthusiasm to develop what we are doing.
“Apprenticeships have transformed the way we train and develop our people. We now have a confident workforce that drives productivity and improves performance.”
News of the company’s continued expansion coincides with the launch of the Apprenticeship Awards Cymru during Learning at Work Week – www.learningatworkweek.com .
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).
Application forms for the awards, which recognise the shining stars of the Welsh Government’s apprenticeship programme, are available to download from gov.wales/apprenticeshipawardscymru and the closing date for entries is 12 noon on June 16.
From the applications, finalists will be shortlisted for awards including Foundation Apprentice, Apprentice and Higher Apprentice of the Year, which also includes degree apprentices and Tomorrow’s Talent.
Successful businesses are recognised with awards for small, medium, large and macro employers of the year. Work-based Learning Practitioner of the Year recognises those crucially involved in delivering apprenticeships.
Economy Minister Vaughan Gething said: “When a business takes on an apprentice, it isn’t just hiring a new member of staff. It is investing not only in its own future, but in the future of our economy.
“Apprenticeships motivate and diversify a workforce, offering people the chance to gain high-quality vocational skills while supporting themselves financially.
“Our investment in apprenticeships not only tackles skills shortages and gaps in priority sectors critical to drive productivity and economic growth, but it also increases opportunities for people of all ages and backgrounds to develop transferable skills and improve their lives.
“Today’s apprentices will be tomorrow’s specialists, responsible for supporting our country’s vital net zero ambitions alongside the every-day foundational economy and public services we will need to deliver.
“I urge everyone involved in our apprenticeship programme to celebrate their achievements. You can inspire others to follow your example by entering this year’s Apprenticeship Awards Cymru and share your success stories.”
Kepak St Merryn has already recruited 50 new employees this year and hopes to add another 100 by the end of January 2024, whilst increasing its apprentices.
The company has its own internal trainers to develop the next generation of employees. Cambrian Training Company delivers apprenticeships from Levels 2 to 5 in Meat and Poultry Industry Skills, Food Industry Skills, Food Team Leading, Food Management, Food Manufacturing Excellence and Management. Engineering apprenticeships are also being delivered by Pembrokeshire College.
“Apprenticeships definitely help recruitment as we can offer a skills development opportunity,” said Mr Jones. “By building skills, employees move to the next level of pay. We want to sell a career rather than a role.
“We are building a learning culture and skilled workforce by providing career opportunities for our employees, giving a bright future for them and their families.”
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.
Header image caption:
Kepak Group trainee butcher Henry Lawson with (from left) beef boning trainer William Mills, training co-ordinator Malwina Caetano, intakes manager Geraint Jones, primary technical manager Nathan Freemantle and beef boning hall manager David Bennett.