Like many sectors within food and drink, the red meat industry suffers from a poor image and has problems recruiting and retaining staff, let alone attracting people into the top jobs. Coupled with the constant pricing pressures manufacturers have to contend with and recent bad press, it might not seem the most attractive industry to enter if you're looking for a career in management.
But a new, specialist executive programme from the Red Meat Industry Forum (RMIF) - the first of its kind for the red meat industry - hopes to attract some young blood and progress it quickly.
The Cranfield Fellowship in Manufacturing Management for the Red Meat Industry is designed for the "future leaders" - the high achievers already working within the industry. The aim is that by enhancing their leadership skills, management expertise and industry competence, while bringing those principles to bear on practical issues, candidates will be able to deliver and drive real improvements within their business.
David Grailey, chief executive of the Meat Training Council (MTC), which supports the RMIF programme, believes it could help give the industry a much needed image makeover. "A number of years of negative publicity haven't helped the industry's image. Conditions of work are often not favourable - working in a temperature controlled environment, which is often damp, with a damp product, often with an odour - these are all issues that need to be overcome," he says. "But there are a lot of rewarding careers to be had and you can be given a lot of responsibility at a young age."
With the future leaders programme, says Grailey, businesses can offer something to the graduate (or graduate level employee) where previously they might have moved on elsewhere.
"It demonstrates that the company is willing to put serious investment into them and gives them the opportunity to progress to the very highest level," he says. Furthermore, the business itself benefits from well-trained, competent staff , enabling it to compete globally.
There are currently two main progression routes in the industry - as a graduate and from the shop floor. While many still rise up through the ranks, says Grailey, doing so can take anything up to 10 years, depending on the individual. Starting as a graduate, however, and entering the fellowship after a few years could cut that route down to five years. Equally, the new programme would allow a graduate who is not necessarily from a food discipline to pick up the knowledge and expertise to effectively run a food department.
However, with a price tag of £20,000 (which includes accommodation) to be met by employers, the programme doesn't come cheap. But those behind it are adamant the benefits are more than worth it.
As Grailey points out, the company retains the individual throughout the 15-months. "That individual will then return the investment in many ways - by helping increase productivity and yield, reduce waste, understand the market better and make the supply chain more efficient," he says. "It is not just a £20,000 learning exercise - the learning is put into practice within the business using projects."
The programme is divided into two main phases: a nine month foundation period to develop participants' management skills; followed by a six month project phase, where all the skills are put to use within the candidates' companies. There are also four residential periods totalling nine weeks to be taken at the programme providers: Cranfield University; the University of Cambridge; and the Danish Meat Trade College in Roskilde.
Raising the skill base
Paul Jose, operations manager at RMIF, is leading the project, which is seen as a long-term method of raising the skill base within the industry. "Management development has always been a key area for the RMIF, as has facilitating continuous improvement, but we don't want a sticking plaster solution," he explains. "Management capability is the key to success for businesses and this programme puts the building blocks in place to sustain the industry and create the next generation of future leaders."
And so far, he says the response has been positive. One advocate of the scheme is Neil Hammond, pork business unit md at Grampian Country Food Group. Hammond says: "Operating in today's highly competitive marketplace, there is a real need to have a world leading management development programme for high achieving young leaders in the meat industry."
Indeed, adds Jose: "Two major food processors have already given their firm commitment to the programme. Our unique selling point is the facilities at the Danish Meat Trade College, where they have a fully equipped abattoir. We now have a unique course tailored for the meat industry."
The fellowship is only the first step towards raising management standards, as Bill Jermey, chair of the MTC explains: "This programme is just one part of a scheme to achieve a continuous improvement mentality. There will be another raft of new training programmes that build up all the other layers within the industry."
And the MTC has compiled a Management Development Programme for those people rising up through the ranks from the shop floor. There are three levels - intermediate, advanced and diploma - all of which are nationally recognised.
The RMIF hopes the first intake of 15 candidates will start the course in June/July 2006. Funding may be available. FM
For more information contact Paul Jose at the RMIF on 01908 844307 or email [mailto: firstname.lastname@example.org]