The British Poultry Council and NFU have launched a new training passport scheme for employees in the poultrymeat industry, which for the first time establishes minimum training standards.

Administered by Poultec Training and Lantra, the Poultry Meat Training Initiative aims to give all workers a validated on-line training record showing all the vocational courses they have completed and when they took them.

Speaking at the recent Chicken 2008 event, John Reed of Cargill Meats Europe (Sun Valley) highlighted that one of the issues driving the initiative was farm assurance. “A lack of training records is the largest non-compliance of Assured Chicken Production audits.

Another driver is the up-and-coming European poultry welfare directive, which contains a training element requiring basic competencies for staff. This meant either the industry took a proactive approach or waited until DEFRA imposed its own measures.

So the NFU and BPC opted for the first option and asked Poultec to investigate a system. Poultec’s research led them to Lantra (the Sector Skills Council for the land-based industries) who had an existing on-line system. The result is a “poultry passport” where the worker’s training records are centrally managed and accredited.

“For the first time, it sets minimum training standards for the industry specific to the type of job,” he said.

For example, new starters with less than one year’s experience would be expected to have a formal written induction and a foundation level health and safety certificate. The worker would have also attended a hygiene and biosecurity short course, a poultry welfare short course and a manual handling short course.

Mr Reed listed the many benefits to employers and employees. They included a reduction in costs for employers as it would cut out the unnecessary retraining of new staff and act as a tool for ensuring workers in the sector are trained to meet new legislation.

Then there are the added benefits of increasing the employee’s self worth and confidence, which would help stabilise the workforce and increase productivity. It could also help the sector attract new people, helping to solve the shortage of good, skilled workers.

Speaking to Poultry World, leading independent broiler producer Nigel Joice said the scheme would become “a big plus point for the industry”. “Training is a huge welfare issue and if the industry didn’t get a scheme going, I’m sure DEFRA would have done so and this way we keep ownership of it.”

Mr Joice added that it would be a cheap and easy way for both small and large employers to keep abreast of all staff training issues.

How it will work

Each employer will purchase credits for the number of required passports, which is set at £20 a person annually. Discounts are available for bulk purchases.

To ensure validity, all training records are verified and inputted by an independent administrator from Poultec Training.

Each employer will have access to his or her own area of the website which will list all their employees and the courses passed. The system will highlight what courses still need to be taken to meet the conditions of schemes, such as Assured Chicken Production (ACP). It will also flag up when refresher courses need to be undertaken.

Similarly employees will be able to log on to view their own records. Only Poultec would be able to amend records on the site and as employees complete courses, these are added to their record on a continual basis.