Butchers and apprentices crowned at annual Scottish Training Awards
A Coatbridge trainee butcher who helped ensure housebound customers were properly fed throughout the coronavirus pandemic has been recognised with a special honour in the recent Scottish Craft Butchers Training Awards.
Customers of Hugh Black & Son Butchers in Coatbridge’s High Street voted to secure teenager Nicky Presland the Scottish Craft Butchers “Extra Mile” Award in their annual training awards initiative.
The popular apprentice insists he “did nothing” but expressed his delight that so many customers had taken the time to vote for him.
“I had a smile on my face but a lump in my throat when I learned of the award,” he said. “It was so humbling to read some of the amazing things people said about me.”
Nicky, while working full time at the butchers, has gone out of his way to make sure those shielding received their meat parcels – even on his days off. Although the company does not operate a delivery service, Nicky used his free time to get essential supplies to customers.
“I don’t have transport, so it meant carrying the shopping wherever it was needed which was great exercise for me,” said 18-year-old Nicky. “I would jump in a taxi if the weather was really bad. I just wanted to help those people who were struggling.
“They needed their supplies and I had time on my hands – I wasn’t doing anything else. I would never see people going without. If there is something I can do to help, I will.”
Customers said Nicky was often the only person they saw and spoke to all week and they looked forward to his deliveries.
“I would knock at the door, leave their shopping on the doorstep and stand back,” he explained. “Then we’d get a wee blether when they came out. My Gran was shielding and I know how much it means to keep some safe human contact and be able to rely on a supply of fresh food. I’m happy to do what I can – I just wish I could do more.”
Nicky topped the nominations for apprentice butchers from all over Scotland in the annual awards sponsored by SQA, the Scotch Butchers Club and Legal Rooms.
Also taking a top title at this year’s training awards was 19-year-old Ariane Bennett who works for her family’s Arbroath butchers D H Robertson. She secured the Scottish Craft Butchers’ SVQ Level 2 Apprentice of The Year Award.
Ariane’s achievement recognises how she adapted her studies to allow video-link assessments of her work to take the place of physical visits by assessors during the current coronavirus pandemic and how she used all her spare time to hone her skills and advance her studies.
“It was a whole new training platform but it worked really well,” said Ariane. “I’m absolutely thrilled to get this award – it’s a really big deal. To be rewarded for doing something you love is really special.”
St Andrews Butchers scooped the remaining three training awards with newly qualified butcher Michael Carrubba of Minicks of St Andrews winning the SVQ Level 3 Apprentice of the Year title and Balgove Larder securing both the Scottish Craft Butchers Mentor of the Year and Training Partner of the Year accolades.
Michael completed his butcher apprenticeship and his Federation Diploma at Minicks of St Andrews in under two years.
“I just want to be the best I can be in this industry and I wanted to get through my apprenticeship as quickly as possible,” he said. “I just got my head down and got on with it as there wasn’t much else to do in my spare time during this pandemic.”
Michael’s work was previously rewarded by the company – which operates ten butchers’ shops throughout Fife and Perthshire – when he was promoted to manager of the Bell Street shop in St Andrews just before the outbreak of coronavirus.
At Balgove Larder, staff were celebrating another two additional meat industry awards to St Andrews. Butchery manager, James Lothian, secured the Training Mentor of the Year title for 2020 while Balgove Larder lifted the award for Training Partner of the Year.
“This is something really special,” said James. “It is a driving passion of mine to ensure we get quality, properly trained butchers out there and, although it’s hard work, it’s extremely rewarding. These awards are very humbling. They’re a reflection on the whole team and the company’s belief in – and support of – training.”
Gordon King, executive manager of Scottish Craft Butchers, explained that nearly 200 apprentice butchers throughout Scotland have been at the frontline during the past challenging year.
“Our industry has worked really hard to keep this country fed with no break and no complaining,” he said. “These awards are our way of saying ‘thank you’ to the apprentices who have all stepped up to the plate to support their employers and their customers and to recognise how difficult training has been.
“Nominations were received from all over Scotland – Shetland to Jedburgh and out to the islands – the winners are exceptional examples of a tremendous group of committed and enthusiastic apprentice butchers,” added Gordon.
“The success of the training programme during Covid shows how we can adapt and develop to ensure the apprentices who represent the future of this industry do not lose out.”