Former Wales rugby star and TV presenter Rupert Moon is a man always up for a challenge and he jumped at the chance to learn new skills when invited to become a baker for a day at The Village Bakery in Wrexham.
Rupert, general manager of the Welsh Rugby Union’s North Wales Development Region (Rygbi Gogledd Cymru), agreed to try out the job as part of a drive to promote vocational qualifications in the lead up to the VQ Awards in Wales on June 9 and national VQ Day the following day.
The VQ Awards are organised by the Welsh Government’s Department for Education and Skills (DfES), the National Training Federation for Wales (NTfW) and CollegesWales. The awards are part funded by the European Social Fund.
The Village Bakery, which employs nearly 400 people, was a finalist in the VQ Employer of the Year Award last year and is reaping the rewards of its policy to grow its own skilled workers.
In addition to the Minera bakery, the family-run business has two other bakeries on Wrexham Industrial Estate where it is building a new £4 million Baking Academy and Innovation Centre to create the next generation of bakers. The company was the named fastest growing manufacturer in Wales in 2014.
Moon, who played for Llanelli and Wales, has worked as an S4C presenter and has held a variety of senior posts for the Scarlets, WRU and Millennium Stadium in Cardiff since retiring from playing.
A big advocate of vocational qualifications and work-based learning, he stresses the importance to lifelong learning. An important part of the RGC’s work is to prepare young players for the real world of work outside the rugby “bubble”.
“When I was in college, I went out and worked in an accounts department as part of my training programme,” he said. “It stood me in good stead working in a different type of team.
“It’s very important to gain qualifications and experience of the workplace. I am now in a phase of my life where I want to make a difference and my role in North Wales has given me that opportunity. The secret is believing in your own ability.”
As for his “inspirational” baking experience, he said he had recently baked his first banana bread and was looking forward to using the new skills he had learnt at The Village Bakery.
He was impressed by the company’s attention to detail to maintain quality standards and the commitment to training and development, with 12 apprentice bakers and four apprentice engineers currently undergoing training.
Robin Jones, managing director, said: “We’ve got a great track record of bringing on young apprentices who have then gone on to become supervisors and bakery managers.
“We prefer to grow our own because our apprentices are our future. They will be the life blood of our business and there is an extremely bright future for those who shine.
“We’re committed to developing our people and that’s why we decided to create a new, state-of-the-art Baking Academy which is unique in the UK and will be opening this summer.
“This is a massive investment for us but it will help us to continue to punch above our weight. We believe strongly that to make good products you need good ingredients, good methods and good people.”
VQ Day is a national celebration of people who have achieved success in vocational education in Wales. Vocational qualifications have never been more important to the economy and the individual; they deliver the trained, talented employees businesses are crying out for and ensure young people have the skills needed to succeed in education and work.
The VQ Awards in Wales help to showcase individuals and organisations that have raised the standard of the services they offer as a result of vocational qualifications.
There are two award categories: the VQ Learner of the Year and the VQ Employer of the Year. Finalists will be shortlisted from entries and announced in early May. The winners will be revealed at an awards ceremony to be held at St David’s Hotel, Cardiff.