Dunfermline Athletic

Saltcoats Butcher Academy is top of the class

Thursday, 2nd Dec 2021

An Ayrshire meat processing plant which ensured apprentices could continue their qualification assessments during the Coronavirus lockdown has won a national industry award.

Dunbia Highland Meats at Saltcoats has lifted the coveted Training Partner Of The Year title in the Scottish Craft Butcher Training Awards 2021.

Presented with the award by Scotland`s first National Chef and Masterchef: The Professionals winner Gary Maclean, delighted company HR adviser Chloe McInnes said it was a feather in the cap of everyone involved at Highland Meat`s recently launched Butcher Academy.
"I`m absolutely ecstatic about this accolade," she said. "The Academy was launched in October 2019 - just five months before the country went into lockdown.

"With assessors` access to the plant denied, we had to look at other ways of ensuring the continuous assessment of our trainees and decided to go virtual."

This online option saw trainees continue their personal development through on-site training and theory work while undergoing routine assessment virtually rather than in person.

Assessor Gordon Wallace, who nominated Dunbia Highland Meats for the award, said that assessment of apprentices` skills came to a halt at many training locations.

"Not so for Dunbia’s Highland Meats plant in Saltcoats," he said, " who adapted to the new circumstances with such success that remote assessment remains part of the post-lockdown norm.
"Key staff - remodelling and adapting their own areas of expertise and working closely with assessor and apprentice alike - created an efficient and effective programme of training and remote assessment that ensured each candidate was properly prepared in advance of a ‘visit’ from their assessor via Microsoft Teams.

"The collaborative working, the extensive use of technology and the drive to find a solution to each hurdle as it presented itself, not only allowed uninterrupted skills development of their apprentices, but contributed greatly to the body of core skills evidence that underpins each apprentice’s progression through their course."

Dunbia Highland Meats employs more than 330 people at the Saltcoats plant with 14 apprentices currently attending the Butcher Academy.
"This training programme is giving trainee and time-served butchers alike the chance to earn relevant qualifications," explained Chloe, "and this amazing award gives us the motivation to drive the Academy forward and help establish a growing number of qualified butchers for the industry in Scotland.

"Working with Scottish Craft Butchers and the Scottish Qualifications Authority has seen all our apprentices succeed in their studies to date and we`re hugely proud to receive this award in recognition of everyone`s hard work and our `never give up` attitude during challenging times."

Gordon King, Executive Manager at Scottish Craft Butchers, said Dunbia Highland Meats was an outstanding example of a company seriously committed to investing in its apprentices.

"This is a company which takes its apprentices on a complete journey from the moment they enter the Butcher Academy," he said. "When other meat processors called a halt to assessor access for its trainees, they moved forward and created an alternative solution.
"Their commitment to their apprentices is exactly the type of support that showed how seriously they treat the training of our future qualified workforce."

Two butchers at Dunbia Highland Meats were also finalists in the Training Mentor Of The Year category at the SCB Training Awards.
Martin Neely (Butcher Academy Manager) and Chris Brawls (Butchery Skills Trainer) were each nominated by apprentices at the Butcher Academy for their encouragement and guidance.

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