More than 6,000 people have passed AHDB Meat Education Programme (MEP) training modules, to improve the skills of workers supporting the beef and lamb supply chain.

At a time when organisations like the British Meat Processors’ Association (BMPA) and the NFU are highlighting a labour shortage, developing meat-handling skills in new and existing workers is incredibly important.

Meat processing in the UK currently employs around 75,000 people of which approximately 69 per cent are EU nationals. Of the 11,000 people who have started modules of the Meat Education Programme, more than 10,000 are studying in English and 900 in Polish.

Since 2015, the award-winning programme has provided free online training for new and existing employees who work with meat. Because of the popularity of the beef and lamb training, new pork modules will come on board in 2019.

“Since we started the MEP people thousands of people have used the training to develop their knowledge and support long-term careers working with meat,” said AHDB Programme Development Manager and Master Butcher Dick Van Leeuwen.

“We know that the meat industry is facing challenges with access to skilled labour, so it’s important to run training which is free and easy to access, helping workers to be more productive across the beef and lamb supply chain. Major training providers are using the programme and we also see students sign up on their own initiative, to help further their careers.”

The online programme currently features 16 free theory and practical modules, to develop skills for anybody working with meat – from butchers to meat-marketing professionals. The skills can then be applied in industries including meat processing, food services and butchery.

Kevin Jaggard, training provider at Meat Ipswich has used the programme with butchery students across the country.  He said: “Many of our students and employers have found the Meat Education Programme very informative. The first level theory units clearly explain the basics, while the second level helps to stretch their learning, showing them many different value-added cuts.

“We’ve got students with a different range of learning levels and needs, and the programme caters well for all of them, with online modules or the option to download the paper workbooks.”

Core online modules include: beef and lamb production and meat quality, identifying beef carcases for classification, understanding different cuts. The programme also included three beef and lamb practical modules for learners to demonstrate their skills by cutting a carcase into primal cuts and producing retail and foodservice cuts.