Wide variety of apprenticeships at The Lakes Free Range Egg Company
In 2015 Lizzie Brass was an apprentice on Sainsbury’s first farming apprenticeship scheme designed to boost ‘a chronic shortage of young farmers’. Lizzie was working at The Lakes Free Range Egg Company, a family business set up by her parents David and Helen Brass. She went on to be awarded Apprentice of the Year Award, receiving it from Sainsbury’s CEO Mike Coupe.
The experience gained from Lizzie learning on the job highlighted opportunities that other staff in the organisation could benefit from. Today, the business has seen four apprentices complete their courses, with six more currently working their way through various schemes.
Helen Brass, Company Secretary at The Lakes said “Not everyone wants to go to university and learning on the job has real benefits. Staff can learn from experienced people on the job and within the industry, backing it up with relevant learning. As Lizzie said when she completed her apprenticeship, ’experience is important, but if you have a poor understanding of the industry you are in, you can never meet your full potential.’
“There is a shortage of skilled people in our industry, so we try to encourage growth and promotion from within – and that’s across a far more diverse range of skills than you would first imagine. We have staff on apprenticeships at different levels for poultry work, office management, joinery and mechanical engineering.”
Ben Thompson-Bloxham joined The Lakes team as an office temp five years ago. Impressing the team with his accuracy and attention to detail, he became a permanent member of staff and the second to be enrolled on an apprenticeship scheme through Sainsbury’s.
Ben studied Level 3 Supply Chain Practitioner, completing it in 2021 with a distinction in all three elements of the course. Ben said “There was a test, a presentation and a Q & A session about the work that I do.
“My presentation was based on the effects of COVID-19 and the effect on packaging supply which was hugely relevant to my role at The Lakes.
In the summer, Ben was made Supply Chain Manager for the business, a position he says he has grown into as the business expanded. “The great thing about working here is that you can see people have progressed in their roles, there’s nothing to stop you if you are prepared to develop, learn new skills and grow with the business. It’s very refreshing to see, because in other places I have worked, that’s not been the case.”
Emily said “I looked at universities but couldn’t find a course that I feel was worth the time and financial investment, so I was keen to explore an apprenticeship that would give me credentials that would stand me in good stead, wherever I go. Emily completed her Level 3 Business Administration course with a distinction.
Learning on the job under the guidance of The Lakes’ long standing joiner Stan Tallentire (his Dad), his skills include steel fabrication, but it is carpentry that he loves most, building office cabinets, worktops, and staircases.
Jack’s training at The Lakes also enabled him to pass tests to drive telescopic handling equipment, scissor lifts and cherry pickers.
Currently, there are five members of staff working their way through their apprenticeships – including Oliver Dodson who began working in the egg packing centre during COVID-19 lockdown. Oliver was keen to learn and progress and was offered an apprenticeship as an Engineering Fitter. His apprenticeship is with Gen 2, so he travels to their Kingstown college at Carlisle once a week, but he is learning on the job from Anton Parks and Ted Robinson who have been engineers at The Lakes for 20 and 10 years, respectively.
Oliver said “I really enjoy figuring out what has gone wrong when a machine breaks down and then being able to fix it. Anton and Ted are there to help me when I need assistance and they have been a phenomenal support – I’ve never had so much support in such a short space of time and they’re keen for me to learn new skills which is really encouraging. There are millions of pounds worth of equipment, so it’s a job with lots of responsibility already, and I’m loving it.
Apprenticeships are also available for staff on the farms, with Veronica Crawford and Lindsay Husbands taking Level 3 Poultry Worker apprenticeships and Brooke Bell beginning her Level 2 Poultry Worker Apprenticeship. Veronica, who has been with The Lakes since 2018, is set to complete her apprenticeship this summer.
Lindsay has been with The Lakes for 2 years but has worked in the poultry industry for over 20. It’s the first time she has managed sites with free range birds, so The Lakes gave her the opportunity to progress her skill base enrolling her on the Level 3 Apprenticeship. Commenting, Lindsay said “Even after 20 years practical experience, it’s great to have this opportunity, learning some of the more technical side and it has certainly given me more confidence in my role.”
First thing in a morning she checks the ‘girls’ then collects and packs eggs onto pallets ready to be collected and taken to the packing centre. She says the best bit about her job is that it doesn’t feel like work, and there’s real variety of jobs she does.
In September Brooke started a Level 2 Poultry Worker Apprenticeship which will take her 12 – 18 months to complete.
Helen Brass has also enrolled William Graham onto an apprenticeship – he looks after some of our young birds which are away from the farms. Helen said “William has just begun his apprenticeship this year too and he is thoroughly enjoying it. We’re already planning to enrol more staff onto apprenticeships this autumn.
We’ve clearly learned over the last few years that workplace apprenticeships are a very practical and positive way to grow talent within our business, and new starters can see there are opportunities to develop if they are keen to learn.”
For more information on job vacancies and apprenticeships