A RESPECTED name in the Welsh meat industry is carving a successful career as an assessor and mentor to the next generation of butchers.
Matt Edwards, from Wrexham, is Coleg Cambria’s top Work-based Learning Practitioner for Butchery.
A WorldSkills UK gold medallist, Matt began his career at 14 at a local butchers’ before moving on to become an apprentice at award-winning outlets such as Swans Farm Shop, Treuddyn, Jones’s Butchers in Llangollen, and with Steve Vaughan in Penyffordd.
Now on the opposite side of the counter, he is supporting the sector’s new blood, including Adam Jones, who followed in his footsteps by being named Welsh Butcher of the Year while a Cambria apprentice and working at Swans.
Matt is also an Inspiring Skills Excellence in Wales ambassador and wants to promote the trade through competitions and by visiting schools to demonstrate the benefits of joining a profession where there is increasing demand for skilled candidates.
“I go out to see the learners in the workplace, carry out observations and assessments and guide them towards an eventual career in butchery,” said Matt.
“We have more than 100 food manufacturing learners across North Wales and the numbers are growing but there is room for more, the demand is there in this region and beyond – we are always getting asked for more apprentices and that has been the case for some time now.
“As well as developing the next generation of butchers we also promote and celebrate Welsh produce and the hospitality sector, all working together to meet that dearth in skills, because it really does need addressing.”
Reports by the British Meat Processors Association reinforced those comments, revealing that – exacerbated by Brexit – the industry is facing a critical labour and skills shortage.
As well as working, those pursuing a butchery apprenticeship will study for one of a number of qualifications at the college – Diploma for Proficiency in Butchery and Meat Processing, Diploma for Proficiency in Food Industry Team-leading, Diploma for Proficiency in Advanced Butchery and Meat Processing, and more.
“This is a fantastic field to work in, which is why Coleg Cambria is doing all it can to bring through these talented young butchers and hopefully spur even more on to choose this as a career in the future,” said Matt, who plans to compete in the World Butchers Challenge – known as the ‘Olympics of Meat’ – for the second time when it returns in 2024.
“Our courses help with their development and ensure they are at the very forefront of changes in the sector, and the competitions are a great way to perform on the big stage and publicise the businesses they represent.
“Given the success of Adam at the Welsh Butcher of the Year – and Elenko Marinov, who finished third – Cambria is a beacon of excellence and the place to learn while sharpening skills in the workplace.
“From my perspective it’s an honour to encourage this talent and I look forward to helping bring through more young people to ensure butchery remains an attractive, sustainable career option for many years to come.”
Cambria’s Work-based Learning Manager Kate Muddiman added: “The college has worked hard with Welsh Government, stakeholder groups and the awarding body FDQ to develop these two new qualifications in butchery and meat processing to ensure they are better aligned to the sector and the different roles within it.
“Matt’s expertise and enthusiasm has meant he has been able to bring these qualifications to the forefront of the industry, influencing young butchers in advancing their careers as well as entering butchery competitions, representing Wales and demonstrating the skills they have.
“His expertise and live demonstrations are now well sought after and proving very popular, he’s become quite the local legend!”