Trainee of the year: Anthony Plaskitt is the first finalist

FINALIST 1: ANTHONY PLASKITT

Pfizer-TraineeTony Plaskitt didn’t realise quite how well army life had accustomed him to working on a poultry farm when he applied to an advertisement in the local evening newspaper at Scunthorpe.

He had served eight years with the Royal Anglian Regiment including action in the First Gulf War and was looking for a career with a long-term future.

“The food industry was an obvious choice and the vacancy on a poultry farmed seemed a good one,” he recalls. “I soon found out how much the work is regimented, with a daily routine and the need to be on 24-hour call. Just the life I’d become so used to in the army.”

His first position was as a trainee assistant manager with Padley, now Moy Park, at Mount Farm, Sleaford, one of the “academy” farms set up more than 20 years ago.

“These academy farms have proved very successful in taking people from varied walks of life and training them as our poultry farm managers of the future,” says John Burton, senior broiler farms manager of Moy Park. These farms have additional housing on site for the trainees.

“We’ve actually found it easier to train than retrain. We’re looking for commitment and enthusiasm because managing a poultry farm isn’t just a job – it’s a way of life.”

After Mr Plaskitt’s initial training and having shown an aptitude for poultry farm management, he was promoted to one of the company’s smaller broiler farms – the 65,000-bird unit at Mickfield in Suffolk. Having made Mickfield one of the top performing farms in the East Anglian region in 2000, he was promoted to a 200,000-bird unit at Fulbeck near Newark, Nottinghamshire.

“He improved the farm’s performance in five years there, so when the manager of our biggest farm was promoted to area manager, he was the ideal candidate for the position,” says Mr Burton.

This is the 480,000-bird Dales Farm at Billinghay, near Sleaford, which Mr Plaskitt has maintained in the top quartile of almost 40 farms in the company’s performance league table.

Tony readily acknowledges the support of his wife and two children, now in their early teens, who have had to cope with their several moves. “It’s not easy moving home and changing school, but I believe there is a positive side in character building,” he says.

Training record

Mr Plaskitt has always been an enthusiastic participant in training. Over the past 10 years he has attended courses on more than 30 topics from technical issues such as heat stress in broilers and recognition of avian diseases to equal opportunities and team building.

He was one of the first to gain an NVQ Level 3 in livestock production when it was introduced in 2004 and is now completing the first year of studies for a foundation degree in agriculture and environment with the University of Lincoln.

Principal lecturer David Stainton describes Mry Plaskitt as always keen to learn – a “hands-on” type of person whose wider career experience than others has been as asset to the group.

His employer, Mr Burton, comments: “Even though running such a large farm as Dales is time consuming, he has found the time and energy to undertake the foundation course. He is very measured in all he does – that’s probably a reflection of his days in the army. He has a lot of good qualities, and I can see him moving on eventually to become an area manager.”

THE EMPLOYEE: Anthony Plaskitt

Q:How has training so far benefited your working?

Training has provided me with a thorough knowledge over a broad spectrum of broiler production and farm management. Also good communication and organisational skills, both inside and outside the working environment. Good training has enabled me to progress through recognition of good practices. Now I’m also helping to train future farm managers on an academy farm and promoting high standards and good practice.

What kind of training would you choose to help further your career?

After completion of a foundation degree, I’m looking to continue the academic qualification to BSc level.

THE EMPLOYER: JOHN BURTON, senior broiler farms manager, Moy Park

Q: What special contribution does the candidate make to the unit/business and how has training benefited this?

Tony is a diligent, extremely well motivated farm manager with many years of experience. Continuous training has enabled him to become a well-respected and knowledgeable member of staff who is commercially aware and has demonstrated high standards of farm management. His organisation skills and communication are excellent, shown in the successful training of junior staff.

All this is carried out alongside the following of an academic course in order to further his career. His considerable knowledge is a valuable asset to the company.