Wigan & Leigh College, Wigan Council and Kraft Heinz are working together to help boost career opportunities for eight young care leavers from across the borough.

The traineeship is aimed at 18-24 year olds who are keen to start a career in the food manufacturing sector. The students started the new scheme in November 2022 and are on a ten week programme to learn transferrable skills, develop confidence and gain vital work experience.

Part of the traineeship involves them attending Wigan & Leigh College to gain their Food and Drink Careers Passport developed by the National Skills Academy for Food and Drink– an industry recognised qualification that employers within the food industry require.

Each learner will get the opportunity to complete approximately 180 hours work experience within the famous Kitt Green factory in sections including can production, raw goods manufacturing and sterilisation areas.

Declan Aziz, 18 is relishing the opportunity after two years since leaving school with no further education or employment.

“I’ve enjoyed it so far and it’s been a big step up for me. I like learning new things everyday such as housekeeping on the line and how to run a line both manually and automatically. “It’s been a very good experience and motivates me to get out of bed in the morning. My goal is to achieve an apprenticeship with Kraft Heinz.”

The traineeship offers the opportunity for six of the learners to be interviewed for an 18 month apprenticeship with the company at the end of the programme and is something that fellow trainee, Jack Kirby is aiming for.

“Hopefully I will get employed by Kraft Heinz. I have loved the traineeship as I have gained new skills and experience with the machinery. I’m just eager to get as much experience here as I can.”

Both Declan and Jack who have been gaining experience in the can making department have impressed their mentor, Lee Hudson who himself has 23 years’ experience working for the company.

The Process Operator added:

“It’s good we are doing this for the community. They’ve been fantastic and show willingness to learn and they’re asking the right questions. “They’ve really come out of their shells since they first started and after the ten weeks they should be in good stead.”

A number of Kraft Heinz Production Operators throughout the factory have stepped forward to volunteer themselves to be part of this meaningful programme and without their dedication, commitment and ongoing support, this program this wouldn’t have been possible.

Luis Spinardi, who is the Kitt Green Site Director for Kraft Heinz was the inspiration to the initial request.

He said

“This programme came from a reflection of our responsibilities with our local communities. After designing internally our objective, we then partnered with the Council and the College to bring this programme from initial thoughts to an actual live program, meeting everyone’s ambitions. “We are truly excited to be offering a chance for these young people, who have not had opportunities in life that some may have had…but we aim to change that now.”

All eight learners attend the College one day a week where they are improving their maths and English skills as well as working toward their Food and Drink Careers Passport which will help to give them a step up the ladder to get a job within the food manufacturing industry.

At the start of the programme the trainees have learned about health and safety procedures and quality standards as part of an induction phase to prepare them to work safely in the factory environment.

Cate Cowap, who has led this programme on behalf of Kraft Heinz mentioned that each trainee has been amazing and has had nothing but praise.

“We think it’s great that we are providing this opportunity and supporting them with their futures,” she said. “We talked about targeting care leavers to get on-board, potentially young people who didn’t have the right grades. This allows them the chance to improve their grades while at the same time getting them work ready.”

Wigan & Leigh College are excited by the collaboration with Kraft Heinz and Wigan Council.

College Principal, Anna Dawe commented: “It is good to see that a strong working partnership such as the one between Kraft Heinz, the council and the college can offer such a unique and targeted opportunity.

“Young care leavers have an amazing array of talents and this programme provides the learners will a real opportunity to learn, develop and ultimately impress a future employer. They are making great progress and without doubt setting themselves on a career path for the future.”

Councillor David Molyneux MBE, Leader of Wigan Council, said “We are always looking for ways to support our care leavers, to help them get the best start as they move into adulthood and towards independence.

“Providing all of our young people with the very best opportunities we can is really important, and I am delighted we have been able to work with the College and Kraft Heinz to provide these opportunities at a great local employer.”
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