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Upskilling opportunities for Welsh food and drink companies

Laura Barthorpe, Solva MamGu Welshcakes Coffee Shop Manager

Food and drink manufacturers and processing businesses in Wales can gain skills and knowledge on how to build practical plans in response to climate change and challenging Net Zero targets through a series of workshops held in January 2024.

Managed by Food & Drink Skills Wales, a programme funded by Welsh Government and committed to working with the food and drink industry to develop a skilled and capable workforce; the free, tutor-led online training courses and workshops will help eligible businesses take action on their sustainability and decarbonisation goals. Businesses can also book a free one-to-one session with the tutor after completing the training.

Designed and led by Wales’ leading sustainability and industry trainers, EcoStudio and Cynnal Cymru, the sustainability training course will equip attendees with the knowledge and skills required to implement changes within their business in terms of sustainability.

The decarbonisation workshops, delivered by GEP Environmental, will raise awareness of the importance of moving toward net zero for the sector.

Over 50 food and drink companies have successfully completed the sustainability training course so far, and, like the decarbonisation workshops, due to high demand, a further cohort of courses and workshops are scheduled for the New Year.

One of the companies that attended this year’s sustainability course is MamGu Welshcakes based in Pembrokeshire.

Staff at the Solva MamGu Welshcakes Coffee Shop (l-r) Kris Mason-Edmunds, Laura Barthorpe, Natasha Davies

Speaking of her experience of the course, Laura Barthorpe of MamGu Welshcakes said: “As a small business, we are continuously looking at ways to improve and grow our business so that it can be more sustainable, therefore, this training really appealed to us.

“The workshops were very informative. The fact that they were delivered online allowed us to plan our time effectively, and yet with this format, we still felt part of a wider group. It was a great opportunity to meet other businesses like ours and share experiences.  

“We gained so much from the course, including an additional one-to-one session where an Environmental Action Plan was created for us, which now plays a key part of our wider business plan.”

Businesses can benefit from the courses in a multitude of ways including sharing best practice with colleagues and implementing changes to their business strategies, technology and process design in all day-to-day working practices.

Peter Rice, Managing Director of Prima Foods in Llanelli also attended the sustainability course. He said: “As a result of the course, we have actioned environmental and people audits, integrated a sustainability policy into the business and defined our sustainability goals, perhaps the most important of which is to be Net Carbon Zero by 2030. 

“This will be achieved by stepping up our commitment to reduce waste at all levels within the business and those suppliers who we buy in goods and services from, before starting to look further into our wider supply chain.

“Many of the sustainable goals go hand in hand with good business practice and help to maintain profitability; the course has helped us to refocus the impact that our business has on the local community and the environment and how to quantify this and make plans to continually improve. 

“Two members of staff have completed the course and we have another booked in to do it next year.”

Large or small scale, Welsh food and drink businesses have seen the benefits of the course, including Peter’s Food Service in Bedwas, Caerphilly.

Dafydd Davies, Safety, Health, Environmental & Training Manager, Peter’s Food Service Ltd. Caerphilly

Dafydd Davies, Health, Safety, Environment and Training Manager at Peter’s Food Service, said: “Soon after the course, we implemented what we’d learnt. It gave us a good foundation to how a sustainability plan should look moving forward. 

“It was also a really valuable opportunity to tap into expertise in the field – there was a great font of knowledge and support available.

“The course was well-organised, with great interaction between course attendees. With everyone engaged, the course makes you aware of what other businesses are doing. For such a vast topic, it was presented in a manner that made it easy for you to apply yourself.” 

Food & Drink Skills Wales Project Manager, Nerys Davies, said: “The Sustainability training course is designed to help Welsh food and drink companies put sustainability into practice. Whether your business is large or small, whether you’re new to sustainability or you have already started making changes to your business. It’s great to hear the positive feedback from companies and see how attending the course has helped their business implement sustainability interventions.”

While the sustainability training programme is delivered as a series of five tutor-led modules, the decarbonisation workshops give attendees the option to attend as many or as few of the workshops as required.

Covering five specific topics, the workshops are a must for businesses looking to move toward net zero. Topics include energy efficiency and management; renewables; decarbonisation of heating, cooling and refrigeration systems; and decarbonisation of food waste and packaging.

Award winning distillery, The Welsh Whisky Co Ltd, based in Penderyn, Bannau Brycheiniog, recently attended the decarbonisation workshops. Neil Quigley, Production Director at The Welsh Whisky Co Ltd. said: “We found the workshops very worthwhile and informative. While the information provided for each subject was very comprehensive, it was great that we could engage in discussions with other businesses and ask questions.

“As a follow up to what we had learned at the workshops, and keen for further support for our business, we had a one-to-one with a consultant, which we found very useful. We would highly recommend other businesses to attend the workshops.”

Looking forward to next year’s decarbonisation workshops, Peter Schofield, Director and Principal Environmental Consultant of GEP Environmental said: “We are looking forward to welcoming more food and drink manufacturing businesses to our online workshops in the New Year. It’s encouraging to see so many businesses within the food and drink sector embrace decarbonisation and all the opportunities that come with it, such as energy reduction, cost savings and carbon emissions reduction, in the journey to Net Zero Carbon.

“At GEP, we’re aware that the journey to Net Zero is unique for every business, and the workshops offer practical, tangible suggestions tailored to the food and drink sector. The workshops focus on a variety of topics, from very tangible reductions in food waste and packaging to identifying the aspects of a business that are less visible, but just as important, when it comes to energy, cost and carbon savings – including energy efficiency, heating, cooling and refrigeration systems.

“We will help businesses, through the workshops and one-to-one meetings, to identify opportunities within their own organisation and equip them with the m with the right skills to make decisions so they can apply changes to their business strategies accordingly.”

To book a place/s on the free courses, please contact: [email protected]