Thoughts on current issues from FWD Chairman Andrew Selley and Chief Executive James Bielby
These columns are published each month in our magazine, Wholesale News
FWD is celebrating its 100thanniversary this year and we’ve been looking through old records, letters and magazines from throughout that time. It’s interesting how the attitude to staff training has evolved over the years.
As manual jobs give way to more skilled roles, the notion of training is established, but the concept of upward mobility within organisations seems to have come late to wholesale, unless you happened to be the part of the family which owned the business. Suggesting that management could learn from the workers would probably have had you marked down as dangerous radical in the early days of what was to become FWD.
However, from the 1960s when FWD’s Fellowship Fund was founded, we start to see a recognition that corporate success is built on individual fulfillment, challenge and reward.
The Fellowship Fund provides learning and development grants to people working in wholesale, and covers up to half the cost of career development courses, with our members providing the rest. Over the last five years we’ve helped hundreds of people learn new skills and strategies that they are now using for the good of the wholesale sector.
These days of course we understand that talented people are our greatest asset. This was reiterated time and again at the Women in Wholesale conference, which we were delighted to speak at last month. Identifying and nurturing colleagues, and giving opportunities to those who want it, is more effective and far cheaper than recruiting externally.
FWD’s own Introduction to Wholesale sessions also play a role in guiding those who are starting a career in the sector, usually on the supplier side, and we hold our next session at Parfetts in Sheffield this month.
One of FWD’s roles is to shine the spotlight on people who are committed to the wholesale sector, and we have two opportunities to do this next month. On November 6 we are gathering some of the industry’s best talent at the House of Commons to showcase the investment wholesalers make in training to ministers and MPs. We will be handing out awards to some of the apprentices, trainees and graduates who have chosen to build their careers in wholesale and highlighting their employers’ support for sustainable career development.
Then we’re back at Old Billingsgate on November 29 for the FWD Gold Medal Awards, the annual celebration of the top talents in our sector. This year’s nominations include drivers, telesales executives, shop floor staff, customer support champions, and buyers and sellers. Each of them deserves our thanks for their contribution and achievements, and with the help of 800 of their industry colleagues, that’s what we intend to give them.
As the school holidays come to a close the UK faces the shameful prospect that some children will go back to the classroom in a worse educational, health and developmental state when they had left in July. Based on the experience of recent years, the All Party Parliamentary Group on Hunger suggests that as many as three million children face the risk of food insecurity this summer.
While many children from low-income families are entitled to free school meals during term time, there is currently no such provision during holidays. For some children, that free lunch which many members of FWD help to deliver is the most nutritious meal of the day. Even that is a challenge; the Government’s allowance to provide Universal Free School Meals to reception, year 1 and 2 in primary schools has been set at £2.30 since its introduction in 2014. With the increases in food prices it is already causing difficulties in maintaining the provision and retaining the quality of the free meals.
The voluntary sector fills the gap locally during the summer holiday but this is far from universal. Earlier in this year FWD met Feeding Britain, a charity which provides holiday clubs for children in 14 areas, to discuss support from wholesalers in some including food donations, financial support or colleague volunteers to provide technical advice on nutrition.
FWD has also been working with Frank Field MP on a project to provide free holiday activities and meals for disadvantaged families, which was originally called for as part of his Private Members’ Bill on Holiday Hunger. Brakes’ Meals and More programme has tackled the issue head on, working with suppliers and community organisations to establish holiday clubs which were attended by over 9000 children in 2017.
At Bidfood we have worked with a number of regional projects over the summer and we continue to work in partnership with FareShare, the food redistribution charity, by supporting them with redistributing surplus food from our depots. From January to June, Bidfood supplied an estimated 40,000 meals for people in need.
A number of organisations now believe the Westminster government needs to follow where devolved governments have led and believe the government should take responsibility for ensuring that children have access to nutritious food on the 170 days a year when they are not in school. As food distributors I feel we should all be an active part of this process.
It is a sad reflection on our society that in 2018 in the UK there are thousands of children who are going hungry in the school holidays. The efforts being made by various organisations to ensure that some of these children are receiving free meals during the school holidays are to be commended, but a Government-led universal solution is the long term goal, and FWD and its members must be involved in every step of the journey to providing that.