Butchery training on the rise in NI

Youngsters are turning to butchery in their droves in Northern Ireland, with almost a third of new apprentices signing up for the trade. The region has reported a five-fold increase in the number of new food and drink manufacturing apprentices, thanks to a new-look qualification and extra funding.

Over 350 people across Northern Ireland are currently taking an Apprenticeship in Food Manufacture, with more than 100 of them opting for a career in butchery, organisers revealed.

The figures show a marked increase in the number of new apprentices – from 35 new starters two years ago, to 164 in 2009.

A reworked apprenticeship structure – which offers more work-based learning and assessment – full funding and cash bonuses for employers to take on apprentices, have all contributed to the huge boost in numbers.

Improve, the food and drink sector skills council for the UK, redeveloped the qualification last year in partnership with Northern Ireland’s Food and Drink Sector Skills, which manages Apprenticeship training within workplaces and colleges.

Improve’s Northern Ireland manager Geoff Lamb said: “There are 18,500 people employed in food and drink manufacturing in Northern Ireland and the sector is worth nearly £3bn to the local economy, but previously we had a very small uptake of Apprenticeships.

“This was mainly due to the fact that the learning was cumbersome and largely college-based, making it particularly unattractive for small employers such as butchers and bakers, who couldn’t afford to let staff have prolonged periods out of work.

“In contrast the new qualification is flexible and able to be delivered onsite to a greater extent than before. What’s more, it is fully funded and employers are compensated for the small amount of time that apprentices are unable to work during their training.

“As a result we have the highest number of food and drink manufacturing apprentices currently training for decades.

“We have listened to what the industry wants and, in particular, I am pleased with the response of small businesses, with over 100 of the current crop of apprentices from butchery – a sector we have struggled to introduce apprenticeships into in the past.”

The Level 2 Apprenticeship takes around 18 months to complete and is made up of three parts – an NVQ (National Vocational Qualification) in Food Manufacture, a technical certificate in food manufacture and a certificate in essential skills (numeracy and communication).

To find out more about apprenticeships visit www.improve-skills.co.uk