Aber Falls Distillery celebrated as 50th Welsh food and drink business to sign industry pledge to tackle national skills shortage

A North Wales distillery is the 50th company to sign a pledge celebrating the food and drink industry as a diverse and exciting place to work.

According to the National Skills Academy for Food & Drink (NSAFD), the voice of food and drink careers across Wales, the food and drink industry is struggling to recruit and retain skilled employees despite the industry experiencing significant economic growth.

In the last year alone, Welsh food and drink exports have gone up by 20 per cent – this is compared to a 9 per cent increase for the UK as a whole over the same period. And there are plans in place to increase industry turnover by 30 per cent by 2020. Yet experts say the industry will struggle to match this growth internally due to a lack of appetite for careers in the sector.

To demonstrate the exciting career opportunities available in the food and drink industry in Wales, Aber Falls Distillery has signed Welsh Government’s Food and Drink Skills Pledge, an initiative to tackle the looming skills shortfall across the industry.

Located near Rhaeadr Fawr, the famous Aber Falls waterfall, in Snowdonia National Park, the distillery’s products are distilled and created using Welsh ingredients from the surrounding area. The distillery’s first whisky – the first to be produced in North Wales for over a century – is set to be released in January 2021.

Aber Falls is the 50th food and drink business to sign the pledge and will be engaging with local schools, communities and unemployed people to educate them on the career opportunities available in the food and drink industry.

James Wright, managing director of Aber Falls Distillery, said: “We are committed to developing and increasing local talent and focused on creating a sustainable pipeline of well-trained and skilled staff so that they can be even better at their jobs with us and focus on their career enhancement for the future.”

The Aber Falls Distillery team of 15, including seven distillers, who have been trained from the ground up in distilling, marketing, events and sales. On training employees without food and drink industry experience, James said: “The first thing I look at in a new employee is their attitude. Their skills and knowledge are trainable. My goal is to make sure we arm our employees with the right skillset for our business and for the drink industry more widely.

“Our approach to training our employees starts with our company vision: to create a legacy. And legacies begin with your team. To do this, we set out clear lines of communication and appraisal so that everyone knows their requirements, but equally we want our employees to be flexible in their roles and to have a number of different touch points so that they’re adaptable as industry professionals.”

Speaking about the looming skills shortage across the food and drink industry in Wales, James commented: “There are lots of exciting opportunities in the food and drink industry, you just have to open your eyes. There are some fantastic brands who are top of their league in the industry here in Wales and the careers that are available are endless.”

In March this year, Aber Falls Distillery will open its door to an innovative and on-site Visitor Centre. The Visitor Centre will support the business’ main goal of increasing industry talent and skills with a state-of-the-art training hub and will also give visitors the chance to see what happens day-to-day at a distillery in North Wales. The centre will also include a conference centre and will act as a hub for Welsh food and drink cluster and collaboration events with industry leaders.

James Hicks, strategic development manager for the National Skills Academy for Food & Drink, commented: “We are proud to announce 50 food and drink businesses, including Aber Falls Distillery, have signed up to the Skills Pledge. There are many misconceptions surrounding recruitment and retainment across the food and drink industry, but Aber Falls Distillery is training its employees to be the highest standard of distillers and drink professionals in Wales. We’re looking forward to the Aber Falls Distillery Visitor Centre opening in the New Year as it will act as a great meeting point for businesses alike to come together to discuss the sustainability of the food and drink industry across Wales.”

For more information on the Skills Pledge or to sign up, visit https://tastycareers.org.uk/pledge