9th March 2023

Make the cut: call for fresh talent to join the butchery industry

Quality Meat Scotland (QMS), in partnership with Scotland Food & Drink, is aiming to change the face of butchery by urging young people and career changers to consider a role within the sector – helping to fill more than 750 potential vacancies in the process.

With the average age of a butcher in Scotland much higher than other professions, the industry needs to ensure there is a pipeline of trainees coming through to future proof the red meat sector, amidst a serious shortfall of skilled positions.

Becoming an apprentice butcher offers the chance to learn a craft and pick up skills that range from traditional practices to those using cutting-edge technologies. Around 25 per cent of current vacancies are apprenticeship opportunities in the retail, processing and catering sector.

Grant Duffy, of Strachan’s Craft Butchers in Blantyre, is an ambassador for The Scotch Butchers Club and has worked in the butchery trade for 13 years. Starting as an apprentice at James Ewart’s in Perthshire, he moved to Lanarkshire as a fully qualified butcher and assumed the position of butchery manager in 2020.

Speaking of his time as an apprentice, Grant said: “Becoming a fully qualified butcher is no easy tasks. You have to be determined and be willing to hit the ground running, but you really do get back what you put in.

“Butchery is such a rewarding career and I’ve learned so many skills that I’ve been able to use in my everyday life, not just at work. It’s a fantastic trade and I encourage school leavers and career changers looking for a practical role to consider a career within butchery.”

Gordon Newlands, brand development and Scotch Butchers Club manager at QMS, said: “Butchery is one of the oldest crafts in the world and an industry we are keen to protect. We’re working on bringing the average age of a butcher down and balancing the gender split – only 14% of apprentices are currently women.

“With new technology being mixed with traditional methods, a career in butchery is an exciting opportunity that can provide both men and women with a strong, transferable skill set.

“On the back of a few very challenging years, we continue to face a skilled labour shortage in the UK. Offering apprenticeships allows younger generations and career changers the chance to upskill on the job, which in turn supports our social and economic future. A new intake of apprentices will not only help decrease the skills gap but help safeguard the butcher industry for years to come.”

The butchery programme is also raising awareness of the Government funding opportunities available to support businesses in employing young people.

To find out more about a career in butchery, potential candidates can visit https://butcherycareers.co.uk/ to learn about training opportunities, read and watch the real stories of young butchers’ careers and explore job postings.

Grant’s Top Tips for Successful Apprentices

  • Be determined – being a butchery apprentice can be full-on and you need to be willing to put in the graft and learn.
  • Be curious – there’s so much to learn on the job and you pick up tricks and ways of working from others.
  • Be patient – It can be tough but stick it out and a trade like this can take you places. There’s good progression and opportunities to unlock your potential.
  • Love what you do – what you learn as an apprentice can trickle into other aspects of your life. For example, my butchery skills sparked a passion for cooking with me.

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