The three finalists for the 2016 Zoetis-BPC Trainee Award all work in the broiler industry for three of the major integrators. But only one initially chose such a career – and she was brought up in a family already involved in poultry.
Indeed, very few finalists for this award, now a decade old, had specifically opted for a career in poultry unless they were from a family with a farming background.
As this year’s finalists testify, there is a real need to convey the message that there are secure, rewarding and well-paid jobs in the poultry sector – not least to provide a new generation of managers to replace those nearing retirement.
The finalists will be interviewed next month by the judging panel of James Porritt, poultry manager of Zoetis for the UK and Ireland, Richard Griffiths, chief executive of the British Poultry Council, and Jake Davies, editor of Poultry World.
The winner, who will be announced at the BPC awards presentations at the House of Commons on 6 December, will receive a £2,000 training grant from Zoetis, a £500 cash prize from Poultry World and plaque.
Sean Harrison – Faccenda, Northamptonshire
Sean Harrison did not plan to work in poultry when he began his career – and when he did make the move he had to postpone his honeymoon.
He had been working in the hospitality sector, managing restaurants and bars, and then in a gymnasium where one of the clients was a broiler farmer. Three years ago, at the age of 25, and after some eight years in hospitality, he was becoming frustrated with his career and its impact on his young family.
He was encouraged by what he heard about the poultry industry and decided it could offer a career, rather than a job. It led to securing a trainee role with Faccenda, which offered him an immediate start.
“I wanted to show them just how keen I was to take up the position and didn’t mention our planned honeymoon in Scotland,” said Sean. “My wife, Rosie, was fully behind me taking up the job and moving from Derby to Brackley – and we had our honeymoon two years later in Edinburgh.”
His first position with Faccenda was as part of their broiler relief team. After six months he was moved into an assistant manager role on two separate 300,000-bird broiler sites – and he hasn’t looked back. This year Sean was promoted to farm manager on a 120,000-bird farm housing turkeys for part of the year.
About the award
The Zoetis-BPC Young Trainee of the Year Award provides a platform for the industry’s future generation. The three finalists will attend the BPC poultry awards presentations at the House of Commons on 2 December 2013, and the winner receives a £2,000 training grant.
Eighteen months ago, he began a Level 3 Diploma in Work-Based Agriculture, which he has now completed. He also won an agricultural award from training company Poultec.
“This award highlighted the fantastic progress than Sean has made in such short time,” said Dan Roberts, area manager for Faccenda.
“Sean exemplifies what we at Faccenda look for in individuals: drive, determination and a positive attitude. Sean has recently been enrolled on an Institute of Leadership Management (ILM) course with the aim being to develop future leaders within Faccenda.
“This is the first time a farm manager has been enrolled on this particular course and it is testament to Sean’s willingness to succeed and progress.”
Sean would like to develop his Work-Based Diploma to Level 5 and merge this with the ILM course.
His employer’s praise is endorsed by Andy Gotts, Poultec agricultural assessor, who notes an appetite for learning. “He has gone out of his way to rack my brain, the internet or his area managers to understand more about the industry, bird requirements, living conditions and – more importantly – biosecurity and bird health.”
Sean believes today’s young people are simply not aware of the careers in agriculture generally.
“We seem to be getting to a situation where the experienced generation is retiring but the positions cannot be filled with eager, young, career-minded individuals,” he says. “I believe it is up to the industry to help promote the knowledge of what can be achieved within the sector, working alongside colleges and universities and also offering scholarships.
“We need to show that the poultry industry today is a high-tech industry that is very much part of the digital revolution – that’s not its image among youngsters – and social media has an important role to play in this.”
Chloe Carter – Cargill Meats, Worcestershire
For Chloe Carter, the poultry industry was a natural choice. As a youngster she had helped her father rear pheasants on the shoots where he worked – and then, when he moved on to a broiler, unit she did weekend shifts.
She immediately saw the career prospects the industry offered – something she believes strongly that many more young people should be aware of.
At Hereford Sixth Form College she left after the first year and decided to take up a full-time position that involved assisting on 375,000-bird and 355,000-bird broiler sites at Evenjobb, in Powys. After six months she was given the role of head of biosecurity on both sites, welcoming the opportunity for more responsibility and authority.
Then, after 12 months with the firm and looking to advance her career, she secured a position earlier this year with Cargill Meats as assistant manager of a 30,000-bird rearing unit for broiler breeders near Tenbury Wells.
She made an immediate impression. “Even during the interview stages she displayed a maturity and knowledge beyond her years and has since proved to be a real asset to the company,” said Nicholas Ham, Cargill breeder rearing area manager.
“Every time I visit the farm I am impressed with what she can do at such a young age and can only imagine what she will be able to achieve as the years progress.”
Chloe started her Level 3 Diploma in Work-Based Agriculture with her first employer and now, with this completed, she is keen to continue her further education, ideally looking ahead to a Higher National Diploma in Agriculture with Scotland’s Rural College.
Chloe, now 18, is passionate about her job – and about the career opportunities in poultry. “I love my job and I would love to show other youngsters the opportunity I have.”
She writes in her award application: “The poultry industry keeps itself shut away and inaccessible to the public, in fear of activists.
“However, I believe showing the public what the industry does would help. The industry prides itself on good practices and obeying the rules and regulations, so what is there to hide?
“As an assistant manager, I know how much hard work, dedication and passion goes into ensuring the welfare and needs of the birds are met and that is what we should be showing people – show them we care.”
Kristine Libiete – Hook2Sisters, Suffolk
Kristine Libiete had no thoughts about a career in the poultry industry when she arrived in the UK from Latvia in 2010, initially to help look after her sister’s young family in Suffolk.
In Latvia she had a series of jobs – including childcare, floristry and working in a woodworking factory. Once settled in the UK with her young son, she started to look for work and saw an advertisement in the village post office for an egg collector.
That led to her taking up the vacancy with Hook2Sisters on a broiler breeder farm where, with hard work and commitment, she quickly learned the skills required to take on the role of assistant farm manager.
She started a Level 2 Diploma in Work-Based Agriculture, progressed very quickly and completed the diploma in 12 months. She is now starting her Level 3 diploma.
“When the trainee farm manager position at our training farm became available, Kristine was the natural candidate to take on this role,” said Hook2Sisters’ Werner Strydom.
“While managing the site she achieved a European Production Efficiency Factor (EPEF) of 396, the highest result the site has achieved to date.
“Kristine is currently managing a 100,000-bird broiler site at Laxfield and she consistently achieves results that are in the top 25% in the region. She is a real credit to our company and has shown that, with the right opportunities and training, she can achieve some of the best results in the poultry industry.”
Colin Emberley, agricultural assessor with Poultec Training, said that Kristine had needed very little support during her time on the diploma. “She has the attributes, ability and ambition to continue to be a great manager and is an asset to her employer.”
Kristine, too, points to an “acute shortage” of young people coming into the industry, in particular, women. “We need to promote in schools and colleges – and tell people what a rewarding job this is.”
If chosen as the winner, she has a specific target in mind: “I would like to do more training on the make-up of the gut of the chicken, as I believe that a healthy gut produces a strong chicken,” she says. “How do herbal products or probiotics affect the gut – and can they help more than antibiotics?”