Fears grow over training cuts

The economic squeeze is forcing meat companies to cut spending on training, particularly when it comes to hygiene and cleaning, a leading awards body has warned.

According to FDQ, an awarding organisation for NVQs within the food manufacturing industry, up until recently, training had been on the rise, but now companies are feeling the pinch and looking to cut costs, with cleaning taking the hit.

Angela Long, FDQ’s awarding director, said: “Since we started awarding cleaning NVQs in 2004, we have seen a year-on-year increase in uptake. However, the current economic climate means some companies are reducing spend on training as their profit margins are squeezed.”

The news has caused concern among safety experts. Ian Sinclair, director of health & safety at Integrated Cleaning Management (ICM) said cutting back could be a misguided action: “Cleanliness and hygiene are essential ingredients for anyone involved in the handling or preparation of food. In the current climate, margins are depressed and staff levels have been cut, so there are a reduced number of knowledgeable people in the workforce. If anything goes wrong, it could spell disaster for the industry.

“Cross contamination is a big issue. Staff can turn up to work in their own clothes, wearing jewellery or nail varnish, which can easily contaminate food – as can the use of perfumed trigger sprays.

“As a company, we can clearly see the benefits of training staff. Generally, companies that have invested in NVQ training have seen a reduction in staff turnover of 10%. With staff turnover currently running at between 107–115%, it’s easy to see the impact on the bottom line.”

Cargill Meats Europe is another company which puts cleaning, and subsequently food safety, as its number one priority. The company has always had in-house training in place, but the recent adoption of cleaning NVQs has taken the company’s hygiene training to the next level.

Cargill Meats Europe hygiene manager Mark Riches said: “The full understanding that has come out of the NVQ course has really inspired the first wave of people who have achieved this qualification. Staff are more conscious of the tasks they carry out daily and the reasoning behind their work.

“We have also benefited as a business, as it has opened the employees’ eyes fully to what is required and the reasons why they have to achieve such high standards, thus enabling a wider appreciation of hygiene within business. As a result, we have seen increased staff retention, which is a real positive from a business point of view.”