The three finalists for this year’s Pfizer Poultry Trainee of the Year Award, organised in conjunction with Poultry World, have been picked by their employers for their future management potential.


The youngest, Jamie Curston, has been working for the Vion Food Group for just 18 months and is responsible for its small “learner” broiler farm in Cambridgeshire.

Lianne Jackson has been with Hook 2 Sisters in South Humberside for four years and has been chosen for a trainee manager’s role. Both she and Jamie are working towards a diploma in work-based agriculture advanced apprenticeship Level 3.

Benjamin Pollard started working on one of Aviagen’s pedigree breeding units in Scotland in 2001 and was chosen to spend three months on the firm’s grandparent operation in India to broaden his experience.

The winner of the Pfizer award is chosen by Poultry World readers. Voting is open until 30 September and the winner will receive prizes worth more than £2500 at a presentation at the House of Commons in November, including £500 in cash, a night at a London hotel, and a training grant of £2000 paid to the employer.

Benjamin Pollard

Benjamin PollardWhen Benjamin Pollard joined Aviagen from high school in Haddington, East Lothian, he wouldn’t have realised he was stepping into one of the most challenging sectors of the industry – a pedigree breeding unit.

The company’s Garleton farm, south-east of Edinburgh, employs 10 people who have special reason to pay attention to detail; recording the individual output from the 10,000 pedigree hens helps shape the future of the breed. Three years ago he became assistant farm manager, then last year narrowly missed out on a management trainee role.

“Ben recognised he needed a formal qualification and to widen his experience,” says Ivor Richmond, pedigree operations controller.

The qualifications are being obtained through the Scottish Agricultural College. After completing poultry behaviour and welfare training at SAC, Ben was enrolled on the fast-track S/NVQ Level 3 poultry production course. At Aviagen, he has completed 11 training programmes, from Bobcat and mobile tower, to respiratory protection and managing small teams.

“The fast-track delivery recognises the commitment and ability of the candidate to achieve the award in this short time,” says SAC training services manager Graeme Ligertwood. “The award recognises abilities and develops new understanding and skills, providing a more confident and knowledgeable workforce that contributes to business success.”

The wider experience has come through a three-month secondment to Aviagen’s Indian grandparent operation. “Ben’s Indian experience has been a steep learning curve as he had to use all his skills and knowledge gained to translate to our Indian employees whose skills level was limited,” says Mr Richmond.

“During this period, his confidence increased, giving him a thirst for further learning and development in the company.”

On his return to the UK last month, he was given a new role – running a six-month project to study the growth profile of the chicken. “We’re looking forward to results of the study and I’m sure it will help develop Ben’s management potential,” adds Mr Richmond.

Ben says his three months in India were a learning and teaching experience. “This placement has given me the chance to learn so many things and to experience the poultry industry in an international capacity – seeing at first hand what kind of issues are global and what are more local,” he says.

If he wins the award, Ben would choose to enter higher education through taking an HNC in poultry production. He says he would also like to focus more on management training, including IT to improve his computer skills and abilities.

Jamie Curston

Jamie CurstonWhen Jamie Curston left Methwold High School in Norfolk two years ago, he saw his future as a carpenter, starting as an apprentice with a concrete factory. When the firm went bankrupt a few months later, he started looking for a job and, through a friend who worked for one of the Vion Food Group’s feed mills, learnt of a vacancy on a broiler growing unit.

Jamie was taken on as a trainee manager at the firm’s largest 420,000-bird Foulden unit so he could replace site managers who leave or retire, with farm manager Matthew Nicholls given the task of training him.

“Within a few hours of working with Jamie it was obvious how keen he was to learn the job and how hard-working he was,” says Mr Nicholls. “Within a few days, he was learning the ropes with ease and soon fitted in with the others to become a valuable member of the team.”

By the time he was 18, Jamie had picked up enough skill and knowledge to be trusted to look after his own sheds. “He was always willing to muck in with everything and willing to quench his thirst for knowledge on every aspect of the job, including the paperwork,” adds Mr Nicholls.

Production manager Malcolm Gill says that when the opportunity came up of taking on a new 52,000-bird site at Barcham near Ely, it was easy to think of a new manager who could take on this challenge.

Jamie says he was “over the moon” at being offered the role and grasped the opportunity with both hands. So much so, that his first crop of broilers finished third among the 29 in the firm’s league table – achieving a feed conversion of 1.67 and EPEF of 350 on birds reared to 36.6 days.

“I’m very proud we were able to give this young lad an opportunity to show what he can do,” says Mr Gill.

“We’ve been rewarded by his determination to achieve the best he can in only the 18 months he’s been with us.”

His training began with a Level 2 livestock production apprenticeship at Poultec, which he completed three months earlier than planned, producing an excellent portfolio of evidence, says Poultec academy manager Nathan Raines.

In addition to his work-based diploma, Jamie also completed short courses including health and safety, hygiene and biosecurity and poultry welfare, demonstrating his appetite to learn. He’s progressing well on his advanced apprenticeship programme.

Jamie’s assessor, Nigel Mendham, who has worked in the poultry industry for 28 years, says: “Young people like Jamie are what this industry needs for the future.

“Jamie is an excellent example of how a positive attitude and willingness to learn can lead to progression and rewards.”

Lianne Jackson

Lianne-JacksonFor Lianne Jackson a career in poultry seemed a natural choice – both her father and uncle work in the industry. “I grew up with poultry,” she says. Yet it was a choice she made after gaining A-levels in English literature, maths and fine arts at Walton Girls High School, Grantham, followed by Brigg Sixth Form College, after her family moved to South Humberside.

She joined Hook 2 Sisters four years ago as a stockperson on a 350,000-broiler farm at Kirton Lindsey, then progressed to other farms, becoming assistant manager at the 450,000-bird Barrow Farm and then a farm at Messingham, near Scunthorpe.

Her big break came earlier this year when she applied for a job as a management trainee, competing against about 12 colleagues, many of whom were older and more experienced. She was chosen for the role, which involved shadowing senior area manager Steve Kirk and his colleagues. She is working in the planning department, gaining experience in the organisation involved in co-ordinating production from the hatchery through to the processing factory.

Mr Kirk says that in choosing Lianne for the trainee area manager role, he and his colleagues were impressed by her all-round abilities.

“Lianne came across extremely well at her interview. She shows tremendous attention to detail, she’s good with people, willing to learn and enthusiastic.”

Hook 2 Sisters general manager Alan Parnham says he is delighted to see Lianne among the three finalists for the award. “Lianne has worked her way through the farms and is one of our first management trainee candidates, so it is particularly pleasing to see her doing so well.”

Introduction of the management trainee scheme follows a reorganisation of senior roles in the firm.

Her training assessor Colin Emberley, at Poultec, has also seen her abilities first-hand. “I’ve watched Lianne working on the farm, where I’ve seen her attention to detail, her confidence and ability to complete her duties to a very high standard – as her employer has recognised,” he says.

Lianne completed an NVQ Level 2 in poultry production last July and is now working towards a diploma in worked-based agriculture Level 3 advanced apprenticeship. As part of this training, she is also working towards a key skills qualification in communication and numeracy.

Lianne says that if she wins the award, she would look at a course from the Institute of Leadership Management to help her continue up the career ladder.

Mr Emberley adds: “Lianne has become an integral part of the company and will continue to be a great asset. She’s very committed to her diploma and producing a very high standard of evidence and answers. She has all the attributes to go far in her career. This is why we’ve nominated her for the award.”


Vote for your winner

Want to have your say in who becomes the Pfizer Poultry Trainee of the Year? Register your vote by calling 08454026527, faxing 08454026528 or emailing roger@bhrcommunications.co.uk State your choice, your name and contact number. Voting closes at midnight on 30 September.