From education to employment

Butchers – Use Them or Lose Them

The Butchers shop has been enjoying a revival thanks to recent consumer campaigns to buy local and butchers providing exceptional customer service and adapting their offer to customers’ changing needs.

“To ensure the future longevity of our butchers more effort needs to be made to promote butchery as a career and invest in butchery apprenticeships. This is why Cambrian Training Company sponsors the Welsh Craft Butcher of the Year,” says Faith O’Brien, Managing Director of Cambrian Training Company.

Butchers Buck Economic Downturn to Grow Their Businesses
Between 1995 – 2019, the number of independent butchers in the UK mirrored the decline of the high street and had fallen by 60% to approximately 6,000 premises (Office for National Statistics). However recently increasing numbers of customers are choosing to return to the high street and buy locally reared, ethically produced fresh meat with a traceable origin and a low carbon footprint. Professionally trained butchers will also provide customers with expert advice on preparing and cooking meat and how to safely store meat and will cut the meat to a customer’s specific requirements. There’s also a bigger choice of fresh meat from lamb’s liver to roasted crackled belly pork squares to a wide range of house-made sausages as well as convenient oven and BBQ ready ranges. Thanks to marketing campaigns by Hybi Cig Cymru (HCC) – Meat Promotion Wales, customers understand the vital role butchers play supporting local economic development, promoting local produce, buying from the local Farms that in turn use their local abattoirs, supporting the fresh meat supply chain. Last year loose beef and lamb sales outperformed pre-packed sales. In the last four years the rate of decline in butchers shops has been significantly reduced, so in 2023 there were 5,637 butcher shops in the UK. Results of the Big British Butchers Survey 2023 by membership body National Craft Butchers confirm the revival with the majority of the butchers surveyed stating they had grown their businesses in 2022 – “pointing to a steady revival of one of the cornerstones of the struggling UK high street”.

Succession Planning – Promoting Butchery Apprenticeships
A key threat faced by the butchery sector in the UK including Wales however is its ageing population, with 50% of surveyed business owners in the Big British Butchers Survey 2023, aged 56 or above and 26% planning to retire in the next five years. Of the butchers surveyed, only 33% currently employ an apprentice although 82% of respondents said they would welcome one. “It’s vitally important to train the next generation of butchers and promote butchery careers and apprenticeships to ensure we don’t lose these skills,” says Faith O’Brien.

Cambrian Training Company (CTC) is the biggest work-based learning provider of butchery apprenticeships in Wales and recognises the importance of promoting the sector. This is why the company is the official sponsor of the Welsh Craft Butcher of the Year competition, organised by the Culinary Association of Wales (CAW) and also supports CAW’s Craft Butchery Team Wales, made up of the country’s top butchery apprentices. 

CTC’s Butchery Training Officer, Craig Holly, has competed in the Craft Butchery Team Wales in America. He said “It was a great honour to represent my country and showcase my professional skills on the world stage. These opportunities to compete are important because they inject new ways of thinking that can be applied in the shop environment. Without these competitions, the butchery scene is closed off to innovation and progression. Being part of these competitions also boosts the confidence of the competitors and helps promote their business and increase customer numbers. With more people taking notice of where they shop, being a part of this process can set them apart.”

Ben Roberts, 32, a CTC protege has successfully completed a series of butchery apprenticeships progressing from a Foundation Apprenticeship in Food Manufacturing all the way through to a Higher Apprenticeship (Level 4) and then a Higher Apprenticeship in Business Management. In January this year, he successfully opened his own butcher’s shop Astely & Stratton Ltd. in Farndon, replacing the retiring Griffiths Butchers shop which had been based on High Street for 200 years.

Ben’s apprenticeship journey not only enabled him to learn a trade and set up his own business, it gave him the opportunity to showcase his craft and excel in his field. He’s competed for his country in the Craft Butchery Team Wales and finished third at the 2021 WorldSkills UK butchery competition and second in the Welsh Butcher of the Year in the same week he opened his new business. Ben’s growing list of honours includes: Apprentice of the Year at both the Wales Food and Drink Awards and Cambrian Training Company Awards 2022 and he’s also been appointed a Skills Excellence in Wales Ambassador. Ben is very keen to support the next generation of butchers.

“My long-term goal is to establish an apprenticeship programme in the shop, so that young butchers can experience the same things that I have had the privilege of experiencing in my career to date,” said Ben.

UK Government Investing in the High Street and the Butchery Sector
The UK government are taking steps to reverse the decline and regenerate UK’s local high streets. The government has set up a High Streets Task Force and created a £1 billion Future High Streets Fund and £2.6 billion Towns Fund to support the renewal and reshaping of our high streets and town centres. Wales Government funded Menter a Busnes is producing bilingual schools education resources to raise awareness and promote careers in Butchery in Welsh schools for Progression Steps 3 and 4, targeting GCSE Food Technology students.

Showcasing our Best Butchers in the UK and on the World Stage
Wales has a rich heritage of meat farming and previous Welsh Craft Butchery teams have achieved a string of accolades: winners of Butchery WorldSkills UK, Premier Butcher winners and Welsh butchers have been selected to represent team UK in international Butchery competitions, which have all helped promote butchery apprenticeships and careers.

“We are very proud that Craig and Ben and their apprentice peers have achieved career success. Cambrian Training will be doing all it can so future Welsh butchery apprentices also have the opportunity to compete against the best and showcase their craft and help the success and vibrancy of the butchery sector,” says Faith O’Brien.

Cambrian Training

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