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Apprentices key to family business’s success

Spring water and soft drinks manufacturer Radnor Hills says they wouldn’t be where they are today without its army of apprentices.

Winner of Made in Wales’ Sustainable/ Ethical Manufacturer of the year award, the business saw a 20% increase in growth last year and has recently invested in a UK £3.5 million investment in a canning line to produce canned spring water.

The mineral rich spring water sourced on site, was the reason why the fifth-generation family farm in Powys diversified in 1990. From those roots, 170 vital rural jobs have been created while the farm still keeps sheep and grows crops.

Offering a range of apprenticeships from level 1 up to level 8, Radnor Hills ensures all members of its 190 staff are able to participate in an apprenticeship programme to increase skills. Working alongside Cambrian Training and Hereford College, Radnor Hills offers apprenticeships in most sectors of its business including management, manufacturing, food safety, and electrical and mechanical engineering.

Dave Pope, General Manager at the Knighton-based site, said: “We currently have 53 apprentices which we plan to increase to more than 60 by 2020.

“Apprenticeships really help us as a business to keep developing with the times, as we can continually make sure our staff are learning the most up to date techniques to move the business forward.

“All our apprentices, from level 1 to level 8, get tailored training based on individual’s goals which we find is great for engagement and motivation.

“The apprenticeships we offer encourage people to stay working with us for longer, as it gives them constant opportunities to develop and gain more qualifications. If people do ever want to move on, we’re really proud that we’ve equipped our staff with the right qualifications and transferrable skills they need to get ahead.”

Apprenticeships were initially introduced at the manufacturing company for a trial period, but after their success they are now at the core of the business as job progression is continued to be linked to on-the-job qualifications. One apprentice who has benefitted from the programme is Ben Price.

Ben achieved ISO14001 accreditation for the company’s effective environmental management system which has opened new sales opportunities. In recognition of his contribution to the business’s impressive growth, Ben was promoted to Environmental Co-ordinator and has been enrolled on a Level 5 Management apprenticeship.

Ben said: “I started out as a pot-washer in a local pub, but knew I wanted to find a career which would have more progression and opportunities to keep learning in a practical way.

“Since I started my apprenticeship in September 2018, I’ve been able to get involved in so many areas of the business and have worked my way up from the factory floor to Environmental Co-ordinator.

“I have to stay up to date with environmental legislation, making sure we’re compliant and that our practices have as little impact on the environment as possible. I love that I can see the whole process from start to finish, from sourcing the water in the fields to packaging up the products ready for delivery.

“I’m now working towards my Management Level 5 apprenticeship, and I’m really looking forward to managing my own team in future. I feel like my apprenticeship will make me a more well-rounded manager, as I’ve worked my way up and have a real understanding of what the new apprentices will be dealing with and the challenges they’ll face.”

Minister for the Economy and Transport, Ken Skates, said: “Apprenticeships can provide the perfect avenue into work, allow companies to find, nurture and develop staff and ensure our economy is supported by a workforce equipped to tackle the challenges of today and which are ready for the opportunities of tomorrow.

“Apprenticeship Week Wales 2020 celebrates the important role apprenticeships play in the Welsh economy, and should encourage business owners to consider the benefits that apprentices bring.

“With the uncertainty caused by Brexit it’s more important than ever for employers to plan for the future; future-proof their workforces and nurture the talent that exists within Wales.

“We are on track to meet its ambitious commitment to create 100,000 all-age, high-quality apprenticeships by the end of this Assembly.”