Three butchers from North and Mid Wales will be testing their skills against the very best in the business in the Butchery WorldSkills UK National Competition final this week.
The six top scoring butchers from the combined heats in Wales, Northern Ireland and England go head to head in the final at The Skills Show, held at the NEC Birmingham, on Thursday and Friday this week.
Following the competition, the butchers will give a demonstration at the show on Saturday as they wait for result at an evening presentation event. The Skills Show is the nation’s largest skills and careers event and helps to shape the future of the next generation.
Representing Wales are Matthew Edwards, 23, of Vaughan’s Family Butchers, Penyffordd, near Chester, Daniel John Allen-Raftery, 31, a butcher and slaughterman of Randall Parker, Llanidloes and Peter Rushforth, 20, of Swans Farm Shop, Mold. They all impressed at the Wales heat hosted by Randall Parker Foods at Dolwen, Llanidloes.
Carrying England’s hopes, after qualifying from heats held in Leeds, are John Brereton, 41, butchery manager at the award-winning Ludlow Food Centre in Ludlow and Matthew Parkes, 21, who lives in in Willenhall and is assistant manager for Walter Smith Fine Foods shop at Melbicks Garden Centre, Coleshill.
Representing Northern Ireland will be Dylan Gillespie, 20, form Clougher Valley Meats, Clougher, Tyrone, who won the Northern Ireland heat at Southern Regional College, Newry.
The butchers will be given five tests to complete over two days, which will test their skills to the limit. The tests are: ready to eat products, sausage making, barbecue products, kitchen ready products and a boning and theme butchery display.
Rushforth, who has recently represented Great Britain in an international butchery competition in Utrecht, Holland, says he’s looking forward to the contest.
“It’s very similar to the international competition I did recently, which has set me up quite well,” he said. “The competition covers every aspect of the trade and it would be a hell of an accolade to if I could win it.
“Matthew and I have been head to head for quite a long time and it will be nice to see who comes out on top in this competition. Everybody will be at the top of their game.”
Edwards, who also competed for Great Britain in Utrecht last year, has been practising ever since he won the Wales heat. “The final is going to test every aspect of my butchery skills and it’s going to be an intensive two days,” he said.
“It will be one of the best competitions I have ever done and I hope to win it. I haven’t stopped practising since winning the Wales heat. I know I will have to be at my best to win because of the quality of the competition.”
Parkes said the shop where he works is just five minutes from the NEC. His preparations were disrupted by two weeks’ jury service but he hopes to be ready for the final.
“I would love to get a top three place, but to win the final and say I am Butchery WorldSkills UK would be an amazing achievement,” he added. “I have been looking forward to the final for so long as it’s the biggest competition I have ever done.”
Raftery, who lives in Abermule, near Newtown, said: “I am looking forward to competing against seasoned competitors from all over the country and seeing the different style of butchery and products. In the meat trade you never stop learning.”
Brereton has been competing for eight years but still feels apprehensive going into the final. “There are certain disciplines that are not in my comfort zone, so I have practised those areas and I hope to win the competition,” he said.
“It’s not just about winning, though, it’s about what you learn from competing as much as anything else. The competition makes you find the time to look at new product development and at new ways of doing things.”
Gillespie, 20, has also been busy practising since winning the Northern Ireland heat and is looking forward to the final. “It will be a great experience and I will be doing my best to win,” he said.
“It’s only my second competition, so to win would be really good for me and also Clougher Valley Meats.”
Award-winning, Welshpool-based training provider Cambrian Training Company has organised the butchery competition on behalf of WorldSkills UK and the heats were sponsored by The National Federation of Meat and Food Traders, Institute of Meat and PBEX.
Cambrian Training Company has brought together the main players in the meat industry to form a steering group to organise the new butchery competition.
WorldSkills UK National Skills Competitions are designed to enhance apprenticeship and training programmes and improve and drive skills in the industry. Butchery is one of more than 60 skills to feature in this year’s competitions.
Arwyn Watkins, Cambrian Training Company’s managing director, said: “We are really proud to bring butchery to the Skills Show for the first time. This is the skills showcase for butchery and we hope to make this inaugural competition one of the main features at this year’s Skills Show so that there is continued support for future years for butchers.”
Partners include Pearsons, Scottish Federation of Meat Traders, The National Federation of Meat & Food Traders, Institute of Meat, Eblex, Dunbia Ltd, Castell Howell Foods, Leeds City College, Improve – The National Skills Academy for Food & Drink, Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales, Randall Parker Foods and Mr Harvey.
For more information please contact Katy Godsell, Cambrian Training Company’s Marketing Manager, on Tel: 01938 555893 email: firstname.lastname@example.org or Duncan Foulkes, public relations consultant, on 01686 650818