Northumberland firm looks to apprentices to pass on ancient skills

Karen and Patrick Wilkin, of Swallow Fish of Seahouses, and Linda Weddell, from Northumberland College's Business Development Team.
Karen and Patrick Wilkin, of Swallow Fish of Seahouses, and Linda Weddell, from Northumberland College's Business Development Team.

A north Northumberland business is turning to apprenticeships to try to keep a traditional skill alive.

Swallow Fish of Seahouses, which is owned and operated by husband and wife team Patrick and Karen Wilkin, has turned to Northumberland College to recruit an apprentice in the ancient process of smoking fish to help grow the business.

The company decided to go down the apprenticeship route to offer someone the opportunity to gain a qualification while learning this trade. The recruitment of an apprentice will provide the opportunity for the business to reach new markets and expand.

Karen Wilkin said: “We thought an apprenticeship would be the ideal opportunity to get someone interested in this craft and learn all about the business, processes and techniques.

“Our apprentice will gain an abundance of experience in all aspects of the business from unloading fish, lighting fires, smoking and curing to fulfilling mail order and retail sales. It is a rare opportunity for someone to learn unique skills and develop a career in a niche market, while learning transferable skills that can be applied to other manufacturing roles.”

The successful candidate will be involved in the whole production cycle and will learn hands-on skills including unloading freshly-caught fish and shellfish, splitting, lighting fires, smoking, curing and slicing, as well as the business aspects such as mail order, retail, wholesale and customer service. On successful completion of the apprenticeship programme the candidate will be ready for employment working with fresh fish, shellfish and running the traditional smokehouses.

Karen added: “One of our contacts suggested that we considered an apprentice to fulfil the role so we turned to Northumberland College. They have been really enthusiastic and are dedicated to satisfying our training needs.”

Linda Weddell, business development officer at Northumberland College, said: “An apprentice in performing manufacturing operations could be the ideal solution for businesses who wish to increase their workforce and productivity. Northumberland has a host of small food, drink and craft producers, which could benefit from the skills and knowledge an apprentice can bring to the role. Businesses with apprentices agree they make their workforce more productive.”

Northumberland College work with other production companies throughout the region including the Tyne Bank Brewery and Doddington Dairy offering apprenticeships and bespoke training to meet their business needs.

Anyone interested in this role or those wanting to find out more about business training solutions are asked to contact Northumberland College’s Business Development Team by email or by calling 01670 841268.