AB World Foods develop talent pipeline with apprenticeships

AB World Foods (ABWF), based in Leigh, Greater Manchester, has a skilled workforce, which is vital for success and future growth of the company. However, there is a skills shortage in the catchment area, with 30% of people of school-leaving age having no qualifications.

To expand the talent pipeline in key operational roles at the Leigh site, ABWF established an engineering apprenticeship scheme more than a decade ago, in partnership with Waterside Training. Waterside Training was selected as the training provider of choice as they are local to the factory, are a great fit for the recruitment catchment area and provide high quality expertise and support.

Five years ago, this scheme was broadened to include manufacturing apprenticeships, providing more opportunities for those residing in the local and surrounding areas to have a strong start on their career ladder. The Leigh site was the first to trial the manufacturing apprenticeship scheme within UK Grocery.

The ambition in manufacturing is to recruit up to six new people into these roles each year, which would otherwise be difficult to achieve. Three manufacturing apprentice ‘graduates’ are already in roles in Leigh and a further seven are in the pipeline. These apprentices are trained to multi-skilled technician level, proficient in running all key plant and machinery and capable of learning and adapting to new technologies at pace.

Hans Bolton, General Manager at ABFWF, said, “We are very proud of our factory at Leigh. This is the home of the Pataks brand and is full of state-of-the-art equipment and technologies. The apprentices are crucial to the future of our factory as we build our talent pipeline.”

He added, “Our apprentices have played a key role in helping to keep our Leigh operations running during the COVID-19 pandemic. We would have had to stop the factory operations on a number of occasions, had we not had the apprentices with the skill capabilities able to step into responsible roles. This has proved a huge success and we have had a number of enquiries from other businesses in our group around setting up apprenticeships.”

If you would like to find out more about recruiting an apprentice, visit our employer section here.


Vanderlande are proud to be partnered with Waterside Training as our principle training provider in the Northwest to deliver technical training to our teams, especially the Mechanical Maintenance VRQ L2 programme.

The mixture of technical knowledge and practical elements which our delegates have received over the course of the year combined to make a fulfilling experience. The course was engaging with many opportunities to participate and lots of relatable examples that we were able to bring back to site. This was found after a full site tour by the Waterside team to expertly devise the best course to deliver our teams with knowledge of the process and equipment on site.

We have now trained at least half of the Engineering Support Operatives across our four shifts with all the teams and site reaping the rewards in maintenance completion and system performance through the continued support given and putting into practice the skills they learnt. The tutorship given is professional with tailored delivery to the differing knowledge of the attendees on each course, which ultimately shows how diverse the styles of teaching are at Waterside Training.

This has set our Engineering Support Operatives on an Engineering and Technical pathway to offer hands on support for our teams of Service Technicians to deliver planned and reactive maintenance across the largest warehouse in both Vanderlande’s and Asda’s UK portfolio.

We look forward to upskilling our single trade Service Technicians in the near future with expertly tailored courses to have a truly Multi-Skilled Engineering team at our disposal.

Josh McCormack, Service Operations Manager, Vanderlande