Meat processor Kepak launches apprenticeship drive

By Rod Addy

- Last updated on GMT

Left to right: Kepak apprentice Aaron Buckler, HR manager Karan Dyer, Cambrian Training's Jones, apprentice Rebecca Sage and site director Hughes
Left to right: Kepak apprentice Aaron Buckler, HR manager Karan Dyer, Cambrian Training's Jones, apprentice Rebecca Sage and site director Hughes

Related tags Meat & Seafood Training & recruitment

Wales's largest meat processor Kepak has signed up to the Welsh government’s Apprenticeship Programme to boost workforce skills, aiming to bring 100 existing staff on board the scheme within a year.

Kepak, which employs 768 people at its flagship facilities at St Merryn Merthyr, will train 50 staff in the first phase of its apprenticeships drive. The company said its long-term aim was to offer an apprenticeship framework to all staff at Merthyr Tydfil. There was a particular need to attract and develop skilled butchers who were in short supply across the UK meat industry, it said. 

Kepak is working with pan-Wales learning provider Cambrian Training to deliver level 2, 3 and 4 apprenticeships 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.

'Huge skills shortage'

“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. 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: “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 for Wales Ken Skates said: “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.”​ 

Employs more than 5,000 people

Kepak is a family-owned company founded more than 50 years ago. From the establishment of a family owned butcher shop in Dublin in 1966, it has grown significantly and now boasts sales of €1.6bn (£1.4bn) and employs more than 5,000 people across 12 manufacturing sites in Ireland and the UK. 

The business supplies prime cuts of meat to some of the biggest names in retail, wholesale and foodservice across Ireland, UK, Europe and internationally. 

The Apprenticeship Programme in Wales is funded by the Welsh Government with support from the European Social Fund.

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