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You're hired: Why I chose a food manufacturing apprenticeship

By Bethan Grylls

- Last updated on GMT

Why choose an apprenticeship in food manufacturing?

Related tags Training & recruitment

It’s National Apprentice Week 2024 and to mark this great initiative, we heard from Jack Trafford, who started a manufacturing apprenticeship at Nestlé UK & Ireland in Halifax after wanting a career change.

Wanting to try something different, and having always been interested in how things are made and in understanding the processes involved in making things work, Jack Trafford left his job in engineering to seek pastures new.

“I wanted to do something new and gain a qualification that would help me to build me career, while staying in a role that was hands-on. An apprenticeship seemed like the best way for me to learn new practical skills and keep developing my knowledge in a new field,”​ Trafford told Food Manufacture.

He found the Nestlé apprenticeship advertised on a government website and found the idea of working in the food industry, especially for a major global company, appealing.

“I’ve always been interested in the food sector too, so it was a great way for me to bring two interests together,” ​he added.

“The variety that came with the role was also attractive. There are so many different elements involved in food manufacturing.

“The factory also has an excellent, longstanding reputation in the local area – my great auntie even worked there many years ago.”

During his Level Three Manufacturing Apprenticeship, he focused on the production of the well-known chocolate mints, After Eights, which he still works on to this day in his role as manufacturing and start-up lead.

“I got to shadow people from all parts of the business and understand how the different stages work together to create the final product consumers see on the shelf,”​ Trafford recalled.

Manufacturing line with two people
Jack Trafford completed his apprenticeship with Nestle in 2019

“The training helped me learn how to prioritise what to do each day by weighing up risks and levels of urgency. I learned a lot about data analysis as that’s a crucial part of the job.

“Eventually I became a ‘green belt’ in the Nestlé projects problem-solving framework. It’s a certification that means you’re adept at extracting data and applying it to resolve issues. I also learnt about the Total Production Management (TPM) framework of tools programme, and I’ve played a big part in applying that to the After Eight manufacturing process.

“Some of the projects I’ve been involved in have made a real difference to our production processes. For example, a waste reduction initiative we implemented for After Eight cut waste from 4% to 1.9%.

“I also helped with the project to move Quality Street to paper wrappers, which has had a very positive environmental impact, removing two billion individual pieces of packaging material from the Nestlé supply chain globally.”

What was the best thing about your experience?

For Trafford, the biggest advantage of an apprenticeship was the real-life experience.

“You’re exposed to real-world processes and the people that have experience in making them work. You’re learning the theory as well, but always with a view to putting it into practice.”

But it wasn’t all plain sailing, as Trafford revealed: “It was challenging going into a completely new environment, especially at a big site like the Nestlé factory in Halifax, with lots of new faces and so much to learn. A food production environment is much more strict with hygiene too, adding another element of learning and training.

“Thankfully everyone I met was incredibly friendly and supportive, so it was far less daunting than I’d imagined. It actually helped to bring me out of my shell. I’m now far more confident than I was when I first started.

Having completed his apprenticeship in 2019, Trafford continues to work at the Halifax site, responsive for making sure the manufacturing lines in the factory are running as smoothly as possible.

Commenting on what’s next, he said: “I’ve already been able to progress quickly since finishing my apprenticeship and had opportunities to explore the parts of the business I’m most interested in.

“Packaging is one area that really interests me and I’m hoping to join the specialist CTAG packaging team at Nestlé, working across all new packaging innovations here in Halifax. I love learning about new processes and it would allow me to do that.”

With labour shortages not unknown to the sector and with many industries to compete with, food and drink recruiters know too well the difficulties of enticing new blood.

Reflecting on this, Trafford said: “Unfortunately, I don’t think many people know about all the apprenticeship routes out there. My advice to anyone is to research the opportunities that are out there – you might be surprised at what’s on offer!”​ 

In other news, Wold Top Brewery has invested £100k into a canning line, marking it entry into the category with the launch of Wild Swim.

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