Matthew Edwards hails from Wrexham. He studied at Cambrian Training and is currently employed by Coleg Cambria as a food manufacturing/butchery assessor. Studying for an apprenticeship really helped Matthew develop his self-confidence as well as his butchery skills, “I struggled a lot with confidence. Since completing my apprenticeship I am now able to put on butchery demonstrations at food shows and help to promote the trade.”
Matthew decided that learning the craft of butchery and earning a wage whilst doing so was very appealing to him rather than other alternatives such as full-time college, as it gave him the chance to earn and learn.
He was first introduced to WorldSkills UK Competitions through his training provider Cambrian Training and took part in the National Qualifiers in 2015, making it through to the National Finals, the highest level of competition available for butchery at the time, where he was awarded a Gold Medal for his outstanding work.
The competitions were a major stepping-stone and were as much about learning from his peers as developing his skill set in competition, “My favourite part of taking part in the competitions was meeting other extremely talented butchers from across the country and sharing ideas”
The competitions are designed to stretch and challenge competitors and get them to perform under pressured workplace conditions.
The biggest challenge for me was creating new and exciting product ideas that have not been seen before. To achieve this, I carried out months of extensive research and practised week-in week-out.
While the competitions are a testing process Matthew believes there are opportunities to develop through them. “I have learned new skills and product ideas by speaking with competitors at the WorldSkills UK National Finals. It also helped me to fine-tune some aspects of my butchery that I was not happy so happy with.”
Competitors often find that taking part in competitions has a positive effect on their employability taking into account their skill sets and soft skills such as self-confidence, reliability; communications and Matthew is no exception:
“Taking part in the competitions has helped my career progresss incredibly well since winning Gold. As a butchery assessor at Coleg Cambria I am able to share my skills with other young talented butchers across North Wales.”
For anyone thinking of entering WorldSkills UK Competitions Matthew’s advice is, ”Do as much research as possible and practise as much as you possibly can, there’s no such thing as too much.”
Matthew is continuing with his competition journey, continually honing his skills and competing against the best of the best across the globe. “I have been selected to compete with Craft Butchery Team Wales at the World Butchers’ Challenge taking place in Sacramento, USA in 2022. We will be competing against 15 other countries to celebrate the best butchers in the world”.
Matthew’s work at Coleg Cambria enables him to put his skills to work in both the college and commercial arenas. “I am currently working closely with a large poultry production site in North Wales to set up a butchery academy to encourage young people into the trade and give them an opportunity to progress in an extremely skilled craft. Because of the success of the academy at the leading poultry processors 2 Sisters Group at their site in Sandycroft, where 60 new apprenticeships have been introduced, I am now in the middle of setting up a similar butchery academy at their sister site in Llangefni.”
To keep progressing along his career pathway Matthew plans to continue developing in his assessor’s role and educate young talented butchers, alongside competing at the World Butchers’ Challenge to learn innovative product ideas and keep himself at the forefront of industry knowledge and skills.
Matthew believes that the government and education should do more to promote apprenticeships so more young people benefit from a technical career path and understand that university is not the only option after finishing school. “Incentive schemes have been a big success recently and I think that this should continue for as long as possible. This will help to encourage a huge drive into upskilling current workforces across the country and investing in staff.”