In recent years, farming and meat processing companies in the U.K. have recruited ever more staff for their operations from Europe and further afield. Local job-seekers were put off joining the sector by perceptions of low pay and poor working conditions.
That has all changed as a result of Brexit — the U.K.’s leaving of the European Union — and the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. While these factors disrupted the market for poultry products, it also led to a decline in the overall workforce. Many of the sector’s former employees returned to their home countries. Some of them are unlikely ever to return.
Avara Foods offers new opportunities in poultry meat processing
For its base in the West Midlands, poultry integrator Avara Foods has announced the availability of 130 job opportunities. At its Dudley-Brierley Hill facility near Birmingham, the firm has permanent vacancies in production, technical, engineering, planning, and stores groups.
According to the company, strong demand has driven an increase to seven-day-a-week operation at the plant. With output 30% higher than a year ago, the Dudley plant has recently increased operations from five days each week. During the summer months, the firm anticipates particularly strong demand for its barbecue products.
In 2018, Avara Foods was founded as a joint venture between Cargill U.K.’s fresh poultry business and Faccenda. A young company, its roots go back to the 1960s through the parent organizations.
From its entirely U.K.-based supply chain, the company produces a range of chicken and turkey meat products, including whole birds, portions, sausages and burgers. These are distributed by its own vehicle fleet to retailers and restaurants, as well as for export. Vertically-integrated, Avara Foods also produces its own eggs and poultry feeds.
In 2020, the company invested in an upgrade to another of its processing sites in the U.K.
Soanes Poultry launches training hub
Foreseeing a growing labor shortage in the country impacting the food sector, Soanes Poultry has announced the opening of its first training hub. Located at Middleton on the Wolds in the East Riding of Yorkshire in north-east England, the new facility aims both to attract and retain staff. It has been set up in partnership with a local recruitment service.
Brexit and coronavirus have created a perfect storm that has resulted in 1.3 million EU workers returning to their own countries, according to managing director Nigel Upson. He said this has had a significant impact on Soanes’ production.
“Over the last two years, we have invested GBP1.5 million to increase capacity due to consumer demand, and now we are having to reduce the number of chicks that we rear because we don’t have the labor to process them,” he said. This investment is worth around US$2.1 million at current exchange rates.
The training hub is the latest in a series of initiatives to attract new employees, including the creation of a training web and guaranteed career progression for the suitable candidates.
At rates above the national minimum wage (and overtime), the firm is offering recruits full- or part-time, temporary or permanent contracts in packing or processing.
Founded in 1947, Soanes Poultry is a family company. It produces a range of chicken (grain-fed, free-range or higher welfare) as well as other poultry products (quail, duck, poussin, and guinea fowl). Throughout the county of Yorkshire and further afield, these are delivered by the firm’s own fleet of refrigerated delivery trucks.
Opportunities for new apprentices with 2 Sisters Food Group
In cooperation with further and higher education college Coleg Cambria, 2 Sisters Food Group is offering up to 60 new apprenticeships over the coming year. Aim of the move by the firm’s poultry site in Sandycroft is to boost employment and skills in Flintshire, a county in north-east Wales.
For the Butchery Academy program, the site is initially offering 20 fully funded apprenticeship, with additional places to follow later.
According to human resources manager Amy Wilkinson, the Group is offering learning opportunities and long-term employment in order to boost employment and skills in the region.
Earlier this month, 2 Sisters Food Group announced the creation of 40 new jobs in its bakery division following a substantial upgrade at its Dronfield facility in Derbyshire. The firm is the largest poultry processor in the U.K.
Also in June, Moy Park — the Pilgrim’s Pride poultry company in the U.K. — launched a new apprenticeship scheme. The four-year program has been designed to nurture the next generation of engineering talent.
Previously, Moy Park had launched a learning and development program. This aimed at upskilling workers across the company's agricultural team throughout Great Britain and Northern Ireland, as well as the wider business.