Much has been written about the rewards of taking an apprenticeship within the food and drink industry. But it's not just the apprentices that reap the benefits of the system; the role of an apprenticeship assessor can be just as fulfilling. It's increasingly needed within food manufacturing and can be a career choice in itself, even for those with a production or operations background.
Take Kevin Bowman, who started out as a process operative for Bernard Matthews. His first taste of being a trainer was when he became a first-aider on one of the production lines. "I swapped the yellow operative's hat for the green first-aider's hat, so my team leader noticed me more," he says.
Bowman excelled so much in this role that he was eventually made responsible for training 1,700 people across three sites. From there, he went on to join Poultec, which specialises in providing training for workers in the poultry sector. He derives a lot of satisfaction from his job, he says. "It's a fantastic feeling. When you've told someone they're doing exactly what they should be doing and seen the look on their face, you can't help but feel happy too."
He's a big fan of the flexibility of the Adult Apprenticeship programme as a means of delivering to individual employers exactly the skills they require. Poultec boasts that it oversees 120 such apprentices.
The first step these learners take is to go through an induction with their assessor to pinpoint their training needs. "It's not just a professional journey, it's a personal one too. The apprentices finish in a very different place to the one they started out in."
One classic example he points to is Martyna Zelazek, winner in November 2009 of Food Manufacture's Skills Excellence Award for Apprentice of the Year, which is sponsored by Sector Skills Council Improve. The 24-year old Pole's language skills improved tremendously as she progressed through her training and eventually completed an Institute of Leadership and Management course.
Now a production line team leader overseeing 28 people at Marlow Foods in Norfolk, which makes the Quorn brand, Zelazek is working towards a Level 3 National Vocational Qualification (NVQ) in Food Manufacture.