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.


Waterside Training have been our apprenticeship provider for the past 7 years. They are an amazing team who offer great customer service and always go the extra mile. Our apprentices are cared for and well looked after which feels like they are part of our own team and forms a true, trustworthy partnership.

Essity have many colleges under management, and I believe Waterside Training is the strongest on the market. With that said, other colleges should be seeking to work in collaboration with Waterside to improve the UK programmes and be the best they can be!

Any concerns or issues that may arise are always dealt with in a timely, personal and professional manner and events are always enjoyable, well organised and a shining example of how much effort they put into our apprentices and the services they provide.

Best in Class!

Harry Mitchell, Training Officer & Continuous Improvement, Essity