Kepak, the largest meat processing plant and abattoir in Wales, has signed up to the Welsh Government’s Apprenticeship Programme to upskill and develop its workforce.
Kepak, which has 768 employees at the company’s flagship facilities at St Merryn Merthyr, is upskilling 50 staff in the first phase of apprenticeships, increasing to around 100 staff within a year.
The company’s long-term aim is to offer an apprenticeship framework to all its staff at Merthyr Tydfil. There is a particular need to attract and develop skilled butchers who are in short supply across the UK meat industry.
Kepak is working closely with pan-Wales work-based learning provider, Cambrian Training, to deliver apprenticeships at levels 2, 3 and 4 in Meat and Poultry Industry Skills, Food Industry Skills, Food Management, Food Team Leading and Food Manufacturing Excellence.
Paul Hughes, Kepak St Merryn Merthyr Site Director, said: “One of Kepak’s key values is ambition. We want to invest in an Apprenticeship Programme that gives all of our employees an opportunity to grow and develop to their full potential within the business and to satisfy their own personal goals.
“Within the food industry, specifically meat, there is a huge skills shortage, and this is set to become an even bigger challenge for businesses like ours unless we take positive action. The importance of the meat sector has been highlighted throughout the pandemic.
“Our priority is to upskill our existing workforce, then we are looking to attract new staff and offer them a clear career path. We are hopeful that we can attract a diverse range of talent to our business. We aim to retain that talent by offering opportunities to develop a career in a practical and rewarding way.
“Cambrian Training come as a highly recommended training partner in Wales. It is clear that they share the same values as us. They are passionate about providing quality training, building relationships with our team on site, helping others to achieve their full potential and challenging the status quo in order to deliver. They have also adapted training delivery to suit the needs of our business in Merthyr.
“We think the support the Welsh Government provides to businesses likes ours is very progressive. It makes these apprenticeship and Jobs Growth Wales opportunities a reality.
“We are looking forward to more local people joining our business and giving them access to these training opportunities in the coming months.”
Chris Jones, head of Cambrian Training’s food and drink business unit, said: “We are delighted to be working with Kepak and look forward to delivering a range of apprenticeships at St Merryn Merthyr.
“It’s fantastic that a business of this size here in Wales is investing in the future by committing to training and upskilling its workforce. The company recognises the benefits of engaging fully with apprenticeships and is also interested in the Welsh Government’s Jobs Growth Wales programme.”
Economy Minister Ken Skates said: “Kepak is clearly committed to upskilling and developing its workforce and I’m pleased our apprenticeship programme will help the company do exactly that.
“Apprenticeships make a huge contribution to our economy and form a crucial part of our recovery from the severe impacts of coronavirus. We are already on target to reach our goal of creating 100,000 apprenticeships this government term, but we are doing more and further support will be available as part of the £40m jobs and skills package which I announced in July.
“I wish each and every apprentice at Kepak the very best now and for the future. I hope their apprenticeship experience is both fulfilling and rewarding.”
Kepak is a family-owned, future-facing food company with a rich heritage of more than 50 years of meat craft. From the establishment of a family owned butcher shop in Dublin in 1966, Kepak has grown significantly and today the group has a turnover of €1.6bn and employs more than 5,000 people across 12 manufacturing sites in Ireland and the UK.