You might never have considered a career in the food production industry, but Kepak's Graduate Programme has opened up a world of opportunity for its' trainees.
If you're looking for a job packed with opportunities, where you can work across sectors and develop new skills - then a place on this scheme might be right for you. But don't just take our word for it, we've spoken to three graduates who've found their career with Kepak, and now they're sharing their stories to inspire others to follow in their steps.
Victoria Foy (Health, Safely, and Environment Manager), Ryan Clarkin (Site Manager), and Sophie Moss (Customer marketing Executive) share what it's like day-to-day in their new roles, along with their challenges and personal successes.
What does your typical day at Kepak look like?
Victoria: Busy. Productive. And completely different from one another. No two days are the same. and on top of that, we have had a pandemic to deal with – which my role has been heavily involved in, in regards to the management of the site.
Ryan: In my current role, I have to be able to switch my focus from one area to another constantly, be that putting together a Health and Safety initiative for the site in the morning or dealing with an issue within the supply chain in the afternoon, the fast-paced nature of the industry and company is something I love. The great thing about the Kepak graduate scheme is that through the rotations programme you’ll be given a chance to experience each area of the business yourself, meaning when you transition into a permanent role you’ll be one of the few people will an appreciation for the whole business.
Sophie: I spend my time creating, planning, and executing below-the-line campaigns across retailers for our brands. Typical day-to-day activities involve working with the wider commercial team to plan marketing activity within their accounts, managing key agencies to work on the booking and creative of campaigns, working on key projects, and pulling insights to utilise across all my work and stay up to date with key trends.
What made you choose a career in the food production industry?
Victoria: The food production industry can be so rewarding. Before working in the food industry, I had no idea how much hard work, passion, and commitment goes into every food brand sitting on the shelves in a store. There are so many routes your career can take in the food industry. I left university with a Marketing Degree. From the graduate scheme, I found a passion for Operations and Health, Safety & Environment. An area of the industry I never even considered. I am now an Affiliate Member of IOSH (Institution of Occupational Safety and Health) working towards my Chartership and an IEMA Practitioner (Environmental Management and Assessment).
Ryan: Two things initially attracted me to the industry:
- The size of the Rustlers and Kepak brands themselves. The opportunity to work for a household name and a company as big as Kepak was an absolute no-brainer. This, of course, means that the knowledge and experience throughout the business are second to none and as a graduate, this was a massive pull. Add to that the fact that Kepak supplies so many companies from, Tesco to McDonald's, and the draw to the company was huge.
- When researching the food industry as a graduate it was clear that the industry itself was one of the toughest industries to work in. From the scrutiny of audits like BRC to the short shelf life on products, it was clear that the food industry would be a perfect place to “cut my teeth” with a real sense that if I could succeed in the food industry these skills would be invaluable for the rest of my career.
Sophie: After university, I was drawn to the FMCG industry as I wanted a role that would be driven by the excitement of an ever-changing environment, which the food industry delivers on. Likewise, this fast-moving environment creates a fantastic opportunity for continuous learning to remain up to date with market changes and key new trends.
What has been the most rewarding part of the job, so far?
Victoria: Career progression and the opportunities to grow after the scheme. I joined the company as a graduate fresh out of university. I now have a career path in front of me, which I get support from other managers and support and mentoring from directors, additional qualifications to my job title, and a great and growing team around me which I manage.
Ryan: For me, the opportunities within the business have been the most rewarding aspect of the job so far. When joining any business there is a worry that your ambitions won’t be met by the company but I’m pleased to say that’s far from the case within Kepak. At each stage in my development, there has been a clear plan for both, my areas for development and the opportunities available for my future. This has helped me both develop my skills and knowledge and stay motivated with a clear picture of where my potential next steps are.
Sophie: The most rewarding part of my role in Marketing is seeing campaigns come to life when they hit the market, a huge amount of planning, logistics, and creativity goes into every shopper campaign we create and so seeing that come to life and the impact it can have is incredibly fulfilling.
Have there been any unique challenges of the role?
Victoria: When I was successful in being promoted to the Health, Safety and Environment Manager Role, the pandemic hit. As the HSE Manager, I was one of several people guiding the site through a global pandemic, of course of which, no one has experienced before. But, with the support of the wider management and senior management team, even though the last 2 years have been incredibly challenging, I have learned and developed so much within my role and into the manager I am today.
Ryan: The obvious, but undeniably biggest challenge of my time at Kepak has been the pandemic. My previous role as Operations Manager at Kepak Kirkham COVID brought with it a huge number of challenges. From downscaling our office presence from over 90 to less than 10, To ensuring our 400 shop floor staff stayed safe, all while delivering record volumes for the Rustlers brand and conducting over 17,000 onsite LFT tests in our on-site testing centre.
Incredibly challenging and not something anyone would want to experience again but it's so rewarding now to look back over the last 2 years at how pulled together as a team and kept the business running.
Sophie: The biggest challenge I have experienced whilst at Kepak, would be the change we saw as a result of Covid. I spent a portion of the graduate scheme based at home due to the work from home government advice which was a huge adjustment to the previous five days in the office regime that I was used to. However, the team were flexible with the scheme and adjusted it to ensure I was able to gain all the exposure as initially planned which as a result created even more learning opportunities as I was able to get involved in external-facing sessions and internal projects due to sessions being based on Teams which was great for my personal development.
What advice would you give to someone looking to enter a similar role?
Victoria: In regards to the graduate scheme, always keep an open mind. Be willing to experience new roles which you didn’t think or consider that you’d ever get the opportunity to experience. It’s a win-win, you’ll either cement your original career goals and continue on your path to achieve these goals or find a new passion in a new industry that you never thought you would.
Ryan: My biggest piece of advice for someone starting within Kepak (or any business) would be to be like a sponge. There is so much knowledge within the business and so much to learn, particularly within the first few years as a graduate. Ask as many questions as you can think of and try to take every opportunity that comes your way, no one expects you to have all the knowledge and answers, especially this early in your career. I’m still asking questions and learning every day.
Sophie: For anyone hoping to obtain a role within a graduate scheme, my advice would be to take in and learn as much as you can whilst rotating through departments as it is such a unique opportunity to gain experience within the key aspects of each department and will be extremely valuable in supporting you within your future career.
You can learn more about Kepak's Graduate Programmes and apply to their available scheme right here.