WESTERN Meat Packers Group has supported and initiated training at all levels for all staff since it was started in 1983 by qualified butcher Rod Russell.
In 2019, Mr Russell is a director of the business he co-owns with wife Shana, while CEO Andrew Fuda, also a qualified butcher, runs the $150 million annual turnover business that employs 450 people at its Osborne Park processing and packing facility, Margaret River abattoir and Bibra Lake value-adding unit. The company’s commitment to upskilling, on-the-job training, professional development and broader industry support was recently underlined when it hosted the 2019 Australian Meat Industry Council Apprentice of the Year competition in its dedicated staff training boning room at Osborne Park.
The Apprentice of the Year, which has been running for more than 50 years, encourages apprentices to strive to be the best tradespeople they possibly can within the meat industry, according to AMIC Member Relations Officer SA and WA Chris Kelly. “It also allows them to network with other apprentices while giving them an idea as to where their personal skills levels are at compared to other apprentices,” Mr Kelly said.
WMPG CEO Andrew Fuda attended the Saturday morning judging and was happy to pass on boning and primal cut hints and techniques he has acquired over 25 years in the industry.
“The meat industry is now absolutely quality driven and knowledge based in the workplace, on the shop floor and in domestic and commercial kitchens and this necessitates acquiring high-level skills and committing to all of career learning at the processor level to deliver a fine meat product,” he said.
“At Western Meat Packers we encourage staff development and regularly support employees to further their skills through training, which is why we were delighted to offer our modern boning room facility and meat product when invited by AMIC. “Aside from cutting and boning skills, we also prioritise safety and continuously strive to ensure occupational health and safety requirements are adhered to, hence we recently put several employees through emergency first aid training and fire warden training, for example.
“Also, as a culturally diverse company, Western Meat Packers ensures equal opportunities in recruitment, training and development. “We are excited to be making significant changes and improvements to all areas of our business, including production, QA, human resources and safety, while creating exciting and innovative ways of working as we strive to be an employer of choice.”
WMPG has a QA team of six, with a new QA manager recently coming on board.
The QA team is working on updating current systems and staff. The company’s recent workplace initiatives had been favourably noticed by auditors and customers, according to Mr Fuda.
“We have received very positive feedback and this is encouraging in such a period of change,” Mr Fuda said. “Worker morale at the Osborne Park site has benefitted from the initiatives, while product integrity has been maintained throughout production and verified regularly by the QA team.
The site is currently certified for organic (including the National Organic Program), export accreditation, halal, HACCP, SQF, Woolworths, Coles supplier approved, AUSMEAT and AACA and has an ongoing relationship with the Department of Agriculture, whose representatives are regularly on site where they hold weekly meetings and monthly audits. WMPG’s recent training emphasis has included having key members from across various departments attend the AUSMEAT Beef & Lamb Specification courses.
The four apprentices assessed at WMPG for the AMIC Apprentice of the Year were Liam Maclennan, The Corner Butcher, Morley; Trey Flower, Tenderspot Quality Meats, Broome; Shannon Telfer, Continental Meat Supply, Hamilton Hill; and Jesse Rausch, Rumpshakers, Southern River. Trey Flower was AMIC WA Apprentice of the Year. He now goes to the nationals in February.