Jonathan Pearson: Dr. Oetker Apprentice
Jonathan Pearson could hardly have imagined where what started as a summer job at the Dr. Oetker pizza plant would take him.
Jonathan had just left school aged 16 and only expected to be working at the then Schwan Food’s Moss Side site in Leyland, Lancashire, for a few weeks.
Ten years later, he is now one of Dr. Oetker’s youngest Team Leaders in the UK – and quick to counter any myths that jobs in food manufacturing lack variety or opportunities for career progression.
"I don’t think people realise the range of jobs available in the industry," said Jonathan. "Yes there’s the production line but there’s also everything around it from marketing, engineering, financial control, warehousing management to sales. They are all there.
"Being well-trained is very important here. To my mind, there’s no better way to gain the knowledge and experience to get on than through an Apprenticeship because you earn while you learn."
Today full of ambition for the future, Jonathan admits he had very limited career goals on leaving school.
"It was just about getting cash in my pocket," he says. "But I got to see how other people had managed to progress while working here – the company likes to promote from within. It was very encouraging and inspiring."
Dr Oetker saw Jonathan’s potential and he was given the opportunity to increase his qualifications and industry knowledge by formally joining the company’s Apprentice scheme through which 78 employees have already progressed.
Pizza success - not just an Italian job
Such was his success that in 2007, Jonathan was named national Apprentice of the Year by the Learning & Skills Council and Best Overall Apprentice by the North Lancashire Training Group.
For the following 12 months, he became something on an ambassador for Apprenticeship programmes in the food and drinks industry – which included an invitation to Downing Street from then Prime Minister Gordon Brown. He remains a strong advocate for what Apprenticeships can do in motivating young people to take advantage of the opportunities around them. The scheme gave him direction and opportunities to progress his career.
In the five months after completing his Apprenticeship, Jonathan was involved in developing health and safety manuals credited with cutting the accident rates by half. As a result he was promoted to team leader and has since gone on to gain NVQs in management helping him understand how to meet the deadlines the job requires.
He likens his latest role to effectively having his own business to run and has now set his sights on moving into senior management.
"You have got to be ready to show your employer that you’re willing to learn and what you are capable of and that’s exactly what an Apprenticeship helps you do," he says.
"You learn that a job is not just about money in your pocket at the end of the week or month but the job satisfaction you get from contributing more and the kind of serious money you could be earning a few years down the line.
At places like Dr. Oetker you can see the opportunities to progress all around you – the managers and team leaders you are working with are all people who’ve invested in themselves by being willing to learn and worked their way up as a result."