Meet the finalists: Future Talent Award

By William Dodds

- Last updated on GMT

Six young people have been named as finalists for the award
Six young people have been named as finalists for the award

Related tags Food manufacture excellence awards

Learn more about the finalists for the Future Talent Award at the 2024 Food Manufacture Excellence Awards.

George Buckwell – The Compleat Food Group

George Buckwell, aged 24, joined The Compleat Food Group in September 2022 as part of the firm’s operations graduate scheme. After gaining a first in his Bachelor of Engineering, Buckwell wanted to use the skills and knowledge he had gained throughout his degree to start a career within operations in food manufacturing.

From the day that Buckwell started with The Compleat Food Group, he demonstrated a passion to make an impact. Spending a short time with each operational department, he spent his time learning about the manufacturing process and offering help. He also took the opportunity he could to grow his responsibilities and relationships across the teams. He has quickly become a highly valued member of the team and is respected by his colleagues across the Crewe site.

Joining the group’s leadership programme, Buckwell decided to undertake his Senior Leader Level 7 apprenticeship as he wanted to develop his leadership skills and become a positive driving force within business. As he has progressed throughout the qualification, he has passed each exam first time and has used the knowledge and skills he has learnt to make a positive impact within his role.

James Burch – Coca-Cola Europacific Partners

James Burch joined Coca-Cola Europacific Partners (CCEP) in November 2018. He’s currently a Level 4 Manufacturing Engineering Apprentice with an electrical bias, and since starting he has undertaken three additional technical qualifications to expand his remit.

Having worked on several manufacturing lines at the Sidcup site, Burch, now 24 years old,  has built up experiences that span across plastic, glass, can and pouch production. He’s led projects and made impactful changes to the way CCEP sites across the UK operate, all before completing his apprenticeship, which has impressed senior leaders at the beverage firm.

Burch has been part of a team that maintains the efficiency of the production lines producing milestone packaging innovations, including the roll-out of paper straws on the Capri-Sun line, as well as straw-less, re-sealable drink pouches. He’s gone above-and-beyond what is expected so early on in his career, often suggesting where strategic changes could be made to make operations more cost-effective.

The time Burch has spent as an apprentice has deepened his passion for engineering and now that he has completed his HNC, he plans to pursue a degree in engineering with a design bias, part-time while he works.

Izzy Duignan – Nestlé UK and Ireland

Izzy Duignan joined Nestlé UK & Ireland as a packaging apprentice at its production site in Tutbury in 2019. She joined the business straight from sixth form with no prior manufacturing experience and embraced the challenge with a hands-on approach and can-do attitude. She immediately demonstrated her aptitude and, despite the challenges that came with starting her role during the coronavirus pandemic, quickly developed new skills, 

At the beginning of her apprenticeship Duignan supported the business’s coffee division, working on a variety of new product development (NPD) projects across well-known brands including Nescafé Dolce Gusto, Nescafé Gold Blend, and Nescafé Azera. 

Duignan has always shown a willingness to go above and beyond what is expected, and as a result quickly progressed to the role of packaging specialist in May 2022. This enabled her to broaden her skillset by working across different parts of the Nestlé UK & Ireland operations, including Nestlé Professional, Food, Dairy, Nutrition and Nestlé Health Science. In this role, she leads, coordinates, and implements packaging concepts for new products – considering all elements including material, design and manufacturing solutions – from conceptualisation to industrialisation.

Mollie Harvey – Lincoln & York

Mollie Harvey, aged 20, is a coffee apprentice at private label coffee roaster Lincoln & York. The business supplies over 250 customers within the out-of-home market and has been blown away by the passion and energy that Harvey has already brought to her role.

After completing her A-Levels, she took a job as a barista at Starbucks despite having no experience and never imagined that the job would lead to a career in the coffee industry. However, Harvey channelled her passion for learning into her new role, soon progressing to become a Starbucks supervisor.

Harvey joined Lincoln & York as a coffee apprentice in May 2022 and was immediately a great fit for the team. Since then the firm has been amazed by her drive to develop her career and ability to acquire new skills.

Having been with Lincoln & York less than 18 months, Harvey is able to independently run sessions in the tasting lab and evaluate coffee. Working alongside Q Graders, with a view to achieving her own Q Grade status next year (becoming one of only 135 in the UK), Harvey has even progressed to training others.

Calum Jones – Princes

Calum Jones joined Princes in January 2018 and has had an extremely successful five years with the manufacturer. He has quickly risen through the ranks – starting out on the company graduate scheme and progressing to senior national account manager on the firm’s biggest customer account.

Jones, now 29, is personable, a team-player, a great communicator and delivers results reliably. He is a real rising star within the business and management expect to see him go far. This is in large part because personal development is important to Jones and he is always looking for new opportunities to improve and challenge himself. His current personal development plan is focused on people management, exposure to senior-level stakeholders, leading on complex negotiations and driving the CSR agenda with customers.

Some of Jones’ key achievements include leading a value chain analysis project that delivered significant cost savings for the customer and delivering several cost price increases in the last 12 months. He is also currently responsible for the management of 200 SKUs, 165m units, and £185m RSV.

Rhian Smith – Princes

Rhian Smith successfully completed the Princes commercial graduate scheme in August 2021, following rotations in the marketing, buying and sales functions. While on her eight-month marketing rotation, she was a key part of the team that gained the widest distribution that the Crosse & Blackwell brand had ever had amongst the multi-national retailers.

After completing the scheme, she was promoted into the role of Napolina marketing manager where she successfully launched the Napolina brand (pasta, tomatoes and pulses) into Australian retailer Coles. Smith also excels at product development and led the development of a new range of pasta sauces which subsequently launched in Co-op stores.

Due to her attitude, work ethic and marketing skills, Smith was promoted again 15 months later, this time to the position of Princes brand marketing manager, which she is thriving in and has recently been responsible for launching the brand-new Princes tuna salads into Morrisons.

Alongside her day job, she is co-chair for the Accessibility CRG, a group that works to shine a light on mental and physical health. Now 27, Smith is passionate about understanding how people can constantly improve and challenge themselves to ensure that colleagues feel increasingly able to talk and learn about disability without fear of any impact on them in the workplace or their future career.

The winners of this prize will be announced at the Food Manufacture Excellence Awards 2024 on Thursday 8 February at the London Hilton Bankside. You can buy tickets here.​​​

Thank you to our headliner sponsor Menzies, alongside event sponsors Quor, HSBC, and CAS Recruitment.

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