From education to employment

Pilot turned butcher apprentice hopes to inspire for Scottish Apprenticeship Week


If you asked pilot Paul Greer a year ago what life would look like in 12 months, he would never have imagined he’d be embarking on a new career as an apprentice butcher.

As the pandemic caused a severe and widespread impact on global travel, Airline Captain Paul (47), who is from Glenrothes, felt the effects first hand as he faced a choice between part-time hours and voluntary redundancy from his job with a budget airline – opting for the latter. 

A highly qualified pilot with over 12,000 flying hours and experience with some of the UK’s leading airline carriers, Paul restarted his career at his wife Katherine’s family butcher shop – Alex Mitchell Butchers, and found himself learning the ropes in an industry where he’d had minimal experience bar a part-time summer job – incidentally, where he’d first met Katherine.

Conversely to the aviation industry, Alex Mitchell Butchers was experiencing strong growth, with Paul embracing the opportunity of developing the family business. As a ‘foodie’, he interest was sparked by a passion for quality, convenience and customer service – and was excited by the opportunities presented by a growth in local shopping habits.

Taking on an apprenticeship later in life has been a huge change for Paul, but something he’s found highly rewarding, saying:

“There are many aspects of the job that I enjoy. In addition to working with a great team and serving the public I enjoy producing quality products, especially our pies and other bakery products. I am also greatly enjoying learning about the different cuts of meats and adding value to the business through identifying new product ideas and efficiencies.

“Although I have been involved in developing the business from a broader strategy point of view, completing the apprenticeship will allow me to offer greater practical support to the team by being ‘on the tools’.”

Although a very different environment, there are parallels between the flight deck and the shop floor. Paul added: “Teamwork, situational awareness, problem solving, decision making and workload management are vital skills in both roles. Communication, organisation and working towards a common goal are also key skills that were required both in the jet as well as in butchery.

“And, of course, working with the public is common to both roles. In fact, I often still get the terms mixed up and refer to the customers as passengers!”

Going forward, Paul hopes to develop Scotland’s world-leading red meat industry through his place on the Marketing Advisory Strategy Group, working with Scotch Butchers Club members and Quality Meat Scotland to promote top quality Scotch Beef, Scotch Lamb and Specially Selected Pork – quality assured meat from high welfare farms.

Gordon Newlands, Brands Development Manager at Quality Meat Scotland said:

“Scotland’s red meat industry is going from strength to strength as home cooks opt for high quality ingredients to elevate meal times – and the knowledge and help of a butcher is invaluable to many people.

“Paul has a real passion and commitment to developing the industry, sharing its positive messages and empowering people with information on where their food is coming from – and we’re proud to welcome him full time into the Scotch Butchers Club community!”

In his downtime, Paul, along with Katherine and their family, like nothing more than a Scotch Beef PGI Ribeye steak, pre-soaked in olive oil then flame grilled on a barbecue to render down the fat.

And his advice for people just beginning or planning to change careers? “I always consider the three P’s; Push, Pull and Peace. When thinking about change, whether it be a career choice, a house move or any other big choice, I identify if there is a push away from whatever the current situation is and ask myself if there is a pull towards the new option. And, if so, I check to see if there is a sense of peace if that change were to be made.”

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