Helping Shaws Huddersfield bring new industry knowledge into their business
We spoke to Emily Dent, Technical Manager at Shaws Huddersfield, to learn about her experience managing an apprentice in a fast-paced SME within the food industry.
Can you give a brief overview of what your business does?
Shaws (Huddersfield) Ltd produce a range of chutneys, salsas, sauces and relishes. We are a small family-run company and our current apprentice, Annie Shaw is a sixth generation member of the family. Annie is currently working as an Operations Supervisor, providing support to the production team.
Why did you choose the degree apprenticeship route to upskill your team?
The apprenticeship route was chosen as we needed to bring new industry knowledge into the business, whilst still retaining Annie’s role within the team.
Annie was also an existing employee at Shaws so a degree apprenticeship was a great professional development opportunity to broaden her knowledge of the food industry.
What area of the business does the apprentice work in?
Annie works in operations, and her main responsibilities include ensuring production runs safely and efficiently, that staff are fully trained and factory standards are maintained. However, as Shaws are a small family-run business, there is a large overlap in responsibilities, meaning Annie could carry out additional duties in her role.
What is the value of an apprenticeship?
An apprenticeship has allowed Annie to learn new industry-relevant technologies, helping us to maintain an awareness of upcoming trends.
As Annie spends time in a university environment, mixing with other students from the industry, she is also able to bring back valuable information about other business practices, which supports us as an SME within the rapidly changing food industry.
The work Annie completed on her apprenticeship has been directly applied to the business. For example, Annie worked on a new product development project for her dissertation which has been implemented within the company. This has helped bind the cross over between new product development, technical and production much better.
Was the apprenticeship a big time investment? How did you manage this as a fast-paced SME?
Yes, the time issued to Annie for studying was an investment. At times, we had to make decisions which either prioritised Annie's studying or the production site, depending on the situation.
On occasion, it was very difficult to provide Annie with study time without compromising the business or Annie's studying and development. However, the business appreciated the bigger picture, and prioritised Annie's learning as much as possible.
Would you recommend Sheffield Hallam University?
Yes, I would recommend Sheffield Hallam University as there is no other accessibility to any similar apprenticeships that were suitable for our business within a reasonable travel distance. The staff and communication at the University have also been of excellent quality.
What are your learnings from employing an apprentice?
Employing an apprentice demonstrated the importance of delegating workloads to other staff members to allow dedicated study time for the apprentice. We now have a new team member on the same course, and we will be applying our learnings to their experience.