BBC News correspondent Sian Lloyd returned to her home patch of North Wales to learn new skills from champion butcher Matthew Edwards to support Vocational Qualifications (VQ) Day on June 8.
Sian, whose family home is in Wrexham, travelled to Penyffordd, near Chester to spend the afternoon with Matthew at Vaughan’s Family Butchers where she discovered the skills required to become an award-winning butcher.
She tried her hand at making steak burgers and chatted to Matthew about how he came to choose his career pathway and train to become a champion butcher.
Last year, Matthew, 24, celebrated his greatest achievement to date by winning the Butchery WorldSkills UK National Competition. The former Wales Young Butcher champion has represented Great Britain and won a series of national and regional sausage making competitions.
In 2014 he was named Foundation Apprentice of the Year at the Apprenticeship Awards Cymru and was a VQ Learner of the Year finalist.
Sian will be hosting the VQ Awards ceremony at St David’s Hotel and Spa, Cardiff on June 7, the day before VQ Day. VQ Awards celebrate the achievements of both learners and employers across Wales.
The awards are organised by the Welsh Government, the National Training Federation for Wales (NTfW) and ColegauCymru / CollegesWales.
Matthew honed his butchery skills whilst undertaking an apprenticeship programme delivered for the Welsh Government by award winning training provider Cambrian Training Company.
He has achieved a Foundation Apprenticeship and Apprenticeship in Meat and Poultry Industry Skills and close to completing a level four Higher Apprenticeship with support from his boss and mentor, Steve Vaughan.
“I chose an apprenticeship to further my understanding of butchery and to learn everything I could to help me achieve my ambition: to one day own a butcher’s shop and pass on my knowledge to other young, enthusiastic butchers,” said Matthew, who lives in Wrexham.
“I have developed my skills by learning on the job and by being given the chance to take part in national competitions. Vocational qualifications have been massively beneficial to me and they have pushed my career much further than I had ever imagined.
“I don’t think people appreciate just how much skill and artistic flair goes into butchery and preparing meat displays.”
Skills learnt during his apprenticeship include using more cost effective meat cuts to reduce overall waste and increase profit margins.
Sian, who herself followed a vocational learning pathway to become a journalist after initially studying to become a solicitor, said:
“It has been fantastic learning a few butchery skills from Matthew who is a great ambassador for vocational qualifications. His huge success story demonstrates just how far you can go with talent, determination and a willingness to learn.
“I benefited greatly from training in the workplace at a local radio station in Wrexham as I learnt how to become a journalist and gained a National Training Certificate in Journalism from college, which is now Coleg Cambria. The experience of learning on the job under the tutelage of seasoned journalists has stood me in good stead to become national news correspondent.”
Now in their ninth year, the awards coincide with VQ Day on June 8, a celebration of the benefits and value of high quality technical, practical and vocational learning to individuals and to the economy. There are awards for VQ Learner of the Year at both Intermediate and Higher and levels and VQ Employer of the Year.
Learning providers across Wales are being encouraged to organise regional events to celebrate VQ Day and engage with learners of all ages. Vocational qualifications have never been more important to the economy and the individual, as they deliver the trained, talented employees that businesses are crying out for and ensure young people have the skills needed to succeed in education and work. For more information about the awards please visit https://www.vqday.wales