Like the other finalists, Christopher Burton did not consider the poultry industry when he left high school at Coningsby in south Lincolnshire to study sports science at Boston College.
It was after gaining his National Diploma in Sports Science and while looking for a position in sport that he came to Moy Park as a chick operative in February 2004. He liked the company and working with livestock, so that when a vacancy came up for a full-time poultry assistant on Moy Park’s 180,000-bird unit at Menzies Farm, near Boston, he went for it and got the position.
He quickly gained knowledge and experience of the broiler growing cycle and within a year felt he needed more of a challenge – so applied for a position as poultry assistant on the firm’s largest farm with capacity for 480,000 birds Billinghay Dales, near Sleaford.
Chris was always keen to progress and took on the position of relief farm manager in April 2007.
He faced a steep learning curve, needing to gain a good working knowledge of all the 25 farms he might have to cover – ranging in size from 100,000 upwards birds and extending across much of Lincolnshire. No doubt he was able to benefit from some words of advice from his father John, himself a senior broiler manager with Moy Park.
He began his formal training with Poultec gaining an NVQ 3 in Poultry Production and since his latest appointment he has completed the first year of a foundation degree course in primary food production and the environment with the University of Lincoln.
Andrew Ballantyne, general manager of agriculture (GB) for Moy Park, says the poultry industry is extremely dynamic and under constant pressure from inflationary costs. “Bird health, welfare, biosecurity and stringent budget control are critical to our overall success within the market place,” he says. “This is why we are extremely pleased to have a person of the calibre of Chris within our team.”
THE EMPLOYEE: CHRISTOPHER BURTON
How has training so far benefited your working?
- The foundation degree course has made me aware of how and why the company does certain things and also how feed prices have hit all-time highs. The course has also heightened awareness of biosecurity, animal nutrition and welfare including the “five freedoms” and all within the first year of a two-and-a-half year course.
What kind of training would you choose to further your career?
- For my future career goals, I would like, once the present course has finished, to do a business course to help with awareness within a large company.
THE EMPLOYER: THOMAS PROCTER
What special contribution does the candidate make to the business?
- Chris brings an innovative and forward-thinking approach to the business. He appreciates the importance of quality and how to achieve this while applying new ideas for increasing efficiency. Chris is constantly striving to improve which is reflected in his level of work and the results he achieves on the broiler sites.
How had training benefited the performance of the unit?
- The training has enabled Chris to appreciate the bigger picture of how the broiler department operates. This has helped him to understand the positive effect that high standards and a critical eye for detail can have not only on an individual unit but on the business as a whole.
Chris Burton chose to pursue a foundation degree at the local Holbeach Technology Park, the south Lincolnshire campus of the University of Lincoln.
Foundation degrees are distinctive by their vocational nature, developed in partnership with employers to help industry meet the need for skilled technologists and managers. The foundation degrees at the Holbeach and Riseholme campuses of Lincoln University are delivered by day release or by distance learning while the students continue working in the industry.
David Stainton, principal food and agriculture lecturer at the university, describes Chris as an enthusiastic and energetic student who has already gained a great deal of confidence from his first year of the course.
“One of the objectives of the foundation degree is to broaden the business skills,” he says. “Chris has been highly active in the group sessions. His project work has been based on a review of chicken breeds for his employer that has enabled him to develop his analytical and presentation skills.”
How to vote
Now you have seen all three finalists, it’s up to you to decide the winner. Voting opens 5 September and you can vote by phone 0845 4026 527, fax 0845 4026 528 or email stating your name and company. Deadline for voting is 17 October.
The winner will receive the award at a ceremony at the Houses of Parliament on 6 November.