Apprentices key for rural food firms: Tyrrells boss

By Rick Pendrous

- Last updated on GMT

Tyrrells’ boss David Milner praises the benefits of apprenticeship schemes, as does Tyrrells apprentice Alice Topham
Tyrrells’ boss David Milner praises the benefits of apprenticeship schemes, as does Tyrrells apprentice Alice Topham

Related tags Apprenticeship Training Tyrrells

Food and drink businesses in rural areas could benefit significantly by setting up apprenticeship programmes, claims the boss of Tyrrells, the crisp producer recently sold to US popcorn maker Amplify Snack Brands for £300M.

Benefits of apprenticeship schemes range from contributing to retaining talent locally, learning practical skills, increasing productivity and securing the long-term future of the businesses adopting them, said Tyrrells chief executive David Milner.

With over 60% of apprentices under the age of 25, an effective scheme would help create and retain the next generation of highly trained workers and ensure that specialist skills were retained, he added.

What’s more, with the UK food sector facing a dramatic skills shortage and 170,000 staff expected to retire over the next five years, having an apprenticeship programme was an excellent means of replacing those leaving the sector, he said.

“Finding effective ways of retaining talent is especially important for businesses located in rural areas and is something we at Tyrrells are very conscious of,”​ said Milner.

“Implementing an apprenticeship scheme has allowed us to demonstrate that highly-skilled jobs are available for talented young people in our rural community and that they can build a successful career without having to move to the city.”

‘Apprenticeship Levy’

“With the government’s new Apprenticeship Levy due to come into effect in May next year, there are many good reasons for setting up an apprenticeship scheme,”​ claimed Milner.

“The time you spend implementing it now is relatively small compared to the rewards young people and your business could reap further down the line,”​ he said.

Alice Topham, 21, international supply chain co-ordinator for Tyrrells, is an example of someone who benefited from embarking on an apprenticeship.

It enabled her to gain a foothold before progressing through the ranks at the company.

“I began my apprenticeship with Tyrrells just under two years ago​,” said Topham. “Having left college early to travel around Australia, I returned home with a strong sense that I needed to continue my education.

‘Valuable experience’

“Though, as someone who always feels on the move, returning to a classroom environment didn’t appeal to me – an apprenticeship was a way of gaining both academic qualifications and valuable experience of the workplace.”

Meanwhile, despite being welcomed by engineering skills group Semta, which represents many small firms, a number of other business organisations have called on the government to delay the introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy.

The Food and Drink Federation, British Retail Consortium, Confederation of British Industry and manufacturing group EEF, claimed there were problems with the levy’s design​.

They also argued that it posed an additional burden on industry at a time of considerable uncertainty following the Brexit vote.

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