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in-house remote training

In-house courses are a cost-effective way to train several members of staff at once. Last year our trainers delivered over 140 in-house courses at companies all around the UK and even abroad.

This year, of course, things are a little different. We are still happy to deliver training at customers’ premises subject to Covid-19 risk assessments. However, we appreciate that many sites are not accepting visitors, or that staff might be working from home or on furlough.

If that’s the case, you can still benefit from the cost savings of a Verner Wheelock in-house course. Instead of coming to your premises, we can deliver the same training courses remotely. That way, your staff can all log in and train together, wherever they happen to be.

Even during lockdown or if staff are on furlough, they are still able to train. The rule is that as long as the individual/company is not gaining financially from the training, it is permitted.

Same content as regular in-house training

You can be reassured that your staff will receive the same high standard of training that they have come to expect from Verner Wheelock. The same professional trainers with food industry experience will be able to answer your questions. The content is essentially the same as a face-to-face training course and there is still the opportunity to interact with the trainer and the other delegates. Plus, there are no travel or accommodation costs to pay.

Train when it’s convenient

Apart from the cost savings, another benefit of in-house training is that you can choose when the training takes place, unlike open courses where there is a set calendar of training courses.

For those unfamiliar with Zoom or Microsoft Teams, a member of the Verner Wheelock team is on hand to assist with any queries or technical issues. You can even request a practice training session beforehand.

Remember, any of our HACCP, auditing, food safety or specialist courses can be delivered remotely. Don’t let your staff miss out on the training they need. Give Claire Lennon a call on 01756 700802 or email her at claire.lennon@vwa.co.uk and she will be happy to help.

Visit VWA with Confidence during Covid-19

Covid-19 meant that for several weeks our training centre was closed. Thankfully we were able to deliver our courses remotely and our customers could receive the training they needed. However, we know that many of you prefer to learn in a classroom environment, so we’re pleased to report that we recently resumed face-to-face courses at our training centre here in Skipton.

Of course, we wanted to ensure that all delegates felt comfortable and as safe as possible during their visit, so we undertook a thorough Covid-19 risk assessment prior to re-opening. As a result, we have put several safeguarding measures in place.

Covid-19 Safeguarding Measures

  • No more than 6 classroom-based places available per course
  • Hand sanitising stations located throughout the building
  • Disposable masks and gloves available
  • NHS Test and Trace QR Code check in
  • Sign in via mobile phone/tablet
  • Tables spaced 2 metres apart in the training room
  • Doors kept open to limit unnecessary touchpoints and assist ventilation
  • Clear screen at the office door
  • Thorough cleaning and sanitising of premises each day
  • Individually packaged lunches and refreshments

View our video

For anyone unsure about attending, we have created a short video to put your mind at ease. You can see for yourself that we are taking the safety of visitors, trainers and staff very seriously.

We also asked delegates on our recent 5-day Level 4 Food Safety course how safe they felt coming to our premises. Here’s what a couple of them had to say:

“I feel fully confident in your good procedures and feel adequate steps have been taken – the best you can in the given climate. Well done!” J.P.

“I feel very safe here. People maintained social distance and everyone used hand sanitisers prior to having refreshments” M.G.

In addition, we have successfully managed to combine classroom-based and remote training. Through the use of audio visual technology, both sets of delegates are able to see and interact with each other and the trainer.

Really good and interactive day! I had my doubts about how it would work with some delegates at the VWA office and some remote, but it worked really well with a great set-up. Lots of activities and discussion to keep the day interactive.” C.W.

See you soon!

For those of you who prefer to train remotely, we will continue to run courses in this format. If, however, you fancy getting away from it all and training in the beautiful Yorkshire countryside, why not come back to Broughton? We’d love to see you.

Click here to view our latest training calendar.

Celebrating 30 years in business this year!

The VWA Team L-R Back Row: Alison, Mitch, Claire, Amberley
Front Row: Rhyanna, Samantha, Rachel

It’s official, Verner Wheelock is 30 this year! We’ve come a long way since 1990 when our Chairman, Verner, took early retirement from his post as Head of the Food Policy Research Unit at the University of Bradford and we ran our first ever training course.

Last year we delivered 140 in-house courses, 70 open courses in Skipton and carried out 212 ethical audits. We have 20 different courses and regularly review them to ensure the content is current. This year, we’ve diversified into remotely delivered courses and launched our own Basic Food Safety & Hygiene online course.

Of course, we wouldn’t be able to do this without our lovely customers and excellent trainers.

In different circumstances we would have had a big 30th anniversary party to celebrate. Instead we’re going to mark the occasion with an online lecture.

Ivor Cummins

We very much hope that you’ll be able to join us on THURSDAY 10TH SEPTEMBER at 9.30 am to spend a couple of hours with the Verner Wheelock team and our special guest, Ivor Cummins, who will be presenting a two-part webinar with a question and answer session.

Who is Ivor Cummings?

The Chief Program Officer for Irish Heart Disease Awareness, Ivor is an extremely engaging presenter, who really makes us think about the food we eat and how it impacts our health and well-being. For the past 8 years, he has been intensely researching the root causes of modern chronic diseases, with a focus on cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity. He has shared his research insights at public speaking engagements around the world.

In recent months, Ivor has devoted his attention to COVID-19. Using his approach of going back to the basic science and interacting with first class scientists, he has developed a very sound understanding of the risks involved and how they can be controlled.

30th Anniversary Webinar

In the first section of the webinar, he will share the knowledge that he has collected on COVID-19 based on the experience of many different countries. He will explain the risks and the steps that individuals can take to reduce them through nutrition.  Finally, he will discuss some of the policy options that could be adopted by the authorities.

In the second section, Ivor will explain why a diet that is low in carbohydrates and high in healthy fats is a critical aspect of a healthy lifestyle.

We hope that you find these talks both interesting and thought-provoking.

More about Ivor

In addition to his speaking activities Ivor is joint author of Eat Rich, Live Long: Use the Power of Low-Carb and Keto for Weight Loss and Good Health and is a prolific blogger on the benefits of a low carb lifestyle.

His website The Fat Emperor is an amazing source of valuable information, which includes detailed discussion with leading scientists in the field.

30th anniversary goodie pack

The event is invitation only and those who attend will also receive a VWA 30th Anniversary goodie pack.

Here’s to the next 30 years!

ethical audits

Understandably there has been some uncertainty surrounding ethical audits during the COVID-19 pandemic. For instance, do you still need an ethical audit? Can audits be delayed? How will they work with social distancing? Can ethical audits be conducted remotely?

Our customers are asking these questions and many more. Below are answers to the most popular questions:

Are you still carrying out audits?
Yes! Our audits had been on hold due to travel and social distancing restrictions. They have now resumed – subject to conditions (see below)

Have you changed your processes in any way?
Yes, we have carried out a COVID-19 risk assessment. Our auditors will also complete a health questionnaire. This will be sent to customers prior to their visit to show they have not been in contact with anyone with symptoms etc. Customers will need to submit a copy of their own COVID-19 risk assessment together with information on any cases they have had within their workforce.

How will the audit take place with regard to social distancing and PPE?
Our auditors have access to PPE and sanitiser. They will comply with all hygiene and social distancing measures in place on a site.

What about site visitor policies and restrictions on site?
Verner Wheelock auditors will only visit one site per day and will aim to avoid a visit on the same day as another visit to your site.  They will comply with your visitor policies and will also wear PPE as advised by that company.

Can our SMETA ethical audit be announced?
Retailers usually require audits to be conducted during a three-week semi-announced window. However, since risk assessments and health questionnaires need completing prior to the site visit, some retailers are accepting announced audits during this time, for the safety of staff and auditors.  This also ensures that personnel required for the audit are on site on the day, as we realise that some office staff are working from home or on furlough. Please check with your customers for more information on this matter.

Can we have an extension on our audit deadline?
Sedex and the retailers are advising that audits go ahead. We had been informed they were allowing an extra 3 months, but please check with your customers first if you wish to postpone or delay your audit.

Can my SMETA Audit be carried out remotely?
Sedex are introducing a Sedex Virtual Assessment (SVA). This will be available from July 2020 onwards. It is unclear as yet whether all retailers will accept the SVA.  Also, sites will need to meet certain criteria to be allowed to have an SVA. Verner Wheelock is applying to Sedex to be one of the audit companies that can offer this service.

Is a Sedex Virtual Assessment (SVA) the same as a SMETA audit?
An SVA is not a full SMETA audit. Sites that undertake an SVA may also find that they need to have a SMETA audit at a later date.

Will staff need to be interviewed on site?
The auditor will need access to a private, well-ventilated room where staff can be interviewed individually or in small groups, following social distancing guidelines. If the weather permits, particularly on farms, the interviews may take place outdoors.  If you are having a virtual audit, interviews can be conducted remotely or may not always be included in the audit.

Can we close off Non-Conformances by desktop to reduce visits to site?
In some instances we might be able to follow-up remotely if sufficient evidence has been provided.

Is Verner Wheelock registered with APSCA (Association of Professional Social Compliance Auditors)?
Yes. Verner Wheelock is a member firm of APSCA. All our auditors are registered with APSCA and are currently completing the new CSCA exams. From 1st July 2020 SMETA audits can only be carried out by APSCA registered auditors from a member firm.

We hope the above provides clarity to help you to prepare for your next ethical audit. If you have any other questions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch on 01756 700802 or by emailing samantha.day@vwa.co.uk

These are unusual times and many companies have been forced to adapt and diversify in order to survive. Food businesses which are part of the hospitality trade are now finding themselves reopening and selling directly to the public. Sit-down restaurants are offering takeaway food. Farm shops are offering deliveries or click-and-collect services…

If you are planning on reopening your food business, you will need to make sure that you have taken all reasonable precautions to produce food safely and to protect your staff and customers from COVID-19. There are quite possibly more elements to consider than you might have first thought.

Reopening checklist for food businesses

To make life a little simpler, the Food Standards Agency has produced a Reopening Checklist for food businesses during COVID-19. The first on the list is letting your Local Authority know that you are going to re-open your business. You also need to tell them of any change to the business activities you have registered. For example, if you are introducing a takeaway or delivery service for the first time, they should be informed.

Changing the way your business operates means that any new procedures need to be written into your Food Safety Management System and trained out to staff. Think about how you are going to manage food allergens, potential cross-contamination, temperature control during the delivery or collection of your products? Ask yourself if the packaging you are intending to use is fit for the job. Is it made from food grade materials and is it stored hygienically?

Ensuring staff safety in a food business

Before reopening, make sure that your staff have the appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and that you have plenty in stock. If clothing is to be re-used, consider how workers can change out of it safely and launder it. Ensure that your staff are well and fit to work by conducting telephone interviews beforehand. Those staff that can come in to work should be trained in any new procedures before commencing work. Increased handwashing is of particular importance. Hands should be washed properly for at least 20 seconds using soap and warm water and dried using disposable paper towels.

If social distancing is possible, try to ensure that staff keep a distance of two metres between them. Where it is not possible try to have the same teams working together, or put measures in place such as screens to minimise potential transmission of the virus. Additionally, procedures for visitors to site or for dealing directly with the public should be drawn up and implemented.

It’s not just about the products you are making. You also need to make sure that any waste is disposed of safely. Check to see that your waste carrier is still running and operating a regular service. If not, this could present a food safety hazard.

Check and clean everything

If you haven’t entered your premises for several weeks it’s a good idea to flush through taps and other equipment with water systems, to guard against the risk of legionella. Dishwashers and glass washers should also be run empty on a hot cycle. Obviously, it goes without saying that all surfaces and machinery should be deep cleaned.

Any fridges, freezers and chilled display cabinets need to be cleaned thoroughly and given the chance to reach temperature before filling. Re-calibrate equipment if necessary. Check all use-by dates on ingredients and ensure there is no damage to packaging.

The above are just some of the reopening considerations. At the end of the day, you need to ensure that your staff and anyone you deal with externally stays as safe as is reasonably practicable. You also need to consider the impact new ways of working could have on food safety and amend your food safety management systems accordingly.

We wish you the very best of luck and hope that your business gets back on track and continues to thrive.

If you’re used to attending classroom-based training, the idea of remote training through a computer screen might seem a little daunting. But there’s really no need to worry, it’s all quite straightforward and there are plenty of reasons why you should embrace the technology:

worried about online training

Firstly, there’s no need to travel anywhere. You can train from the comfort of your own home – or even your garden if the weather’s fine! Anyone, anywhere in the world, can book onto one of our live remote training sessions because distance is no barrier. This will also save you time and money!

Secondly, you don’t require any special equipment to be able to attend. All you need is your laptop, PC, tablet or even your smart phone! They just need to have a camera, microphone and speakers, which are generally built-in.  We send you a link via email to join the training session. Click on it and you’re in!

Remote but together

Thirdly, you can see, hear and interact with the trainer and other delegates on the course, whilst practising the ultimate in social distancing. The training is live, so it will start and finish at designated times, just like a regular course.

A member of staff from Verner Wheelock will also log in to welcome you and assist with any technical issues you might have. We generally use the Zoom platform, so many of you will already be familiar with this through keeping in touch with friends and family. Don’t panic if you’ve never used it before, we’ll take you through it. Or if you like, you can contact us before the course on 01756 700802 and one of the team will give you a demo and show you how easy it is.

Just like our regular training courses

Every remote session is delivered by an experienced and professional trainer from Verner Wheelock. You will be able to interact with them by asking questions directly or by messaging. You’ll also have the opportunity to do group exercises, just as you would on one of our classroom-based courses. This is one of the advantages traditional classroom-based training has over the usual ‘click through’ online courses, but now you can have the best of both worlds.

Essentially, we have done everything we possibly can to replicate our face-to-face training and it is working really well. Just look at some of the feedback we’ve received to some recent remote courses.

Plenty of remote courses on offer

Ready to take the plunge? Below is a list of our forthcoming live remote training courses. We look forward to seeing you on one of them.

Our next remote courses are:

To book your place, please contact Claire Lennon on 01756 700802 or email claire.lennon@vwa.co.uk

New look website www.vwa.co.uk

The Verner Wheelock website has undergone a complete makeover!

The new, modern design is clean, clear and easy to navigate. With drop-down menus and colour-coded sections, you’ll find it simple to go directly to the course or information that you want. Plus you’ll be able to see related courses at a glance.

Why not check it out? Visit www.vwa.co.uk and view our HACCP, Food Safety, Auditing and Specialist pages. There’s also a fresh new section on Ethical Audits with all the information you need to know about our SMETA ethical audit services and handy ethical trading resources.

We love the new-look website and hope you do too. Please let us know your thoughts by emailing office@vwa.co.uk

Great feedback to our remote training

feedback to remote training with Verner Wheelock

Verner Wheelock celebrates an amazing 30 years in business this year. One of the reasons why we have gone from strength to strength is that we have a culture of continuous improvement. In fact, we achieved ISO9001 certification in 2018 for our Quality Management System.

Much of this improvement is driven by adapting to changes in the food industry, market trends and listening to our customers.  Feedback on the courses we deliver is extremely important to us. We encourage delegates to complete a feedback questionnaire after each course they attend and ask them to be completely honest.

Feedback is important to us

We were, of course, very interested to receive feedback when we began delivering our HACCP, Food Safety, Auditing and specialist courses remotely in response to the COVID-19 lockdown. Verner Wheelock has strived to make the courses, which are delivered via the Zoom video platform, as similar as possible to the face-to-face courses we normally run in Skipton or in-house at customers’ own premises.

We’re delighted to report that the response has been very positive.  Here are just a handful of the responses we have received recently:

“First ever remote training I have attended. Absolutely fantastic! No different to being in the classroom. I think this is the way forward. Very clearly explained and good knowledge.”

“Thank you very much for the course. Joanne was a great tutor. Her delivery of the information was clear and at the correct pace. Zoom training worked very well. The course was very useful, and I hope to do more.”

“After the course I took this week with Peter, I’m more than happy to do another remote course.”

“The trainer was great. It was a good experience doing a course on Zoom.”

Hopefully, these comments will encourage you to try a remotely-trained Verner Wheelock course. They are highly interactive and are delivered live by our experienced Verner Wheelock trainers. If you have any questions at all, just call our office number 01756 700802 and a member of the team will be happy to provide the answers.  We are all practising social distancing and working from home but our VOIP phone system means we can easily be contacted, as normal.

Take one of our forthcoming remote courses

Our next remote sessions are taking place as follows:

To book your place, please contact Claire Lennon on 01756 700802 or email claire.lennon@vwa.co.uk

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, if anyone had said the word ‘furloughed’ to me, I would have assumed that it was some sort of farming term. Now, of course, I know that it refers to someone who is retained on a company’s books, but is on a temporary leave of absence. For example, it refers to an employee who cannot do their work from home, or a staff member whose company is unable to pay wages during the lockdown period.

Under the current Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, employers can claim a Government grant that will pay up to 80% of a furloughed employee’s earnings to a maximum of £2500 per month. At the time of writing the scheme is in place until the end of June, although this could change.

A furloughed worker is not allowed to do any work for their company. As I wrote in a previous blog post, he/she is however, eligible to do picking and packing work on farms to supplement their income.

You CAN train if you’re furloughed

Another activity they are permitted to undertake is training. According to current Government advice, “Furloughed employees can engage in training, as long as in undertaking the training the employee does not provide services to, or generate revenue for, or on behalf of their organisation or a linked or associated organisation.”

Appropriate training is an essential element for the success of the food industry. We provide all levels of Food Safety, HACCP and Auditing training, as well as specialist courses such as Legal Labelling, Managing Food Allergens and Root Cause Analysis. Thanks to the power of technology we can deliver most of our training courses using voice and video software. The courses are interactive and hosted live by our experienced tutors and there is the opportunity to ask questions and work in groups, just as you would on a regular face-to-face course.

Get ahead before you return to work

If you are on furlough, now is the ideal time to catch up with some training. You can do it from the comfort of your own home, without worrying about disrupting shift patterns or leaving an organisation short-staffed. You’ll also have the added benefit of being fully prepared for your role when normal working life resumes.

Often, it’s difficult for HR managers to organise ‘in-house’ training due to tight production schedules. However, if staff are furloughed, this is the perfect opportunity to get several employees trained at once. Verner Wheelock are currently offering online training through live remote delivery of their usual range of courses. The training works in exactly the same way as a regular VWA in-house course, but the employees and the VWA trainer join the training from their own homes via the internet.

Similarly, if it’s been a few years since you took a Level 3 or 4 qualification, why not use this spare time to update your knowledge? We run HACCP Refresher, Auditing Refresher and Food Safety Update courses, which only take a few hours to complete. They’ll also satisfy BRC requirements for refresher training every three years.

Find out more about our live remote training courses by calling our Business Development Executive, Claire Lennon on 01756 700802 or emailing claire.lennon@vwa.co.uk

For a full list of our training courses, please view our training calendar.

During World War Two people were encouraged to ‘Dig for Victory’. This encouraged Britons to be self-sufficient – to turn over their flower beds, lawns and back yards to the growing of fruit and vegetables.  In 2020 in the grip of the Covid-19 pandemic, we are being urged by the Government to ‘Feed the Nation’. The initiative refers yet again to the provision of fruit and vegetables, but this time UK residents are needed to help in the harvesting and packing of fresh produce on farms and its distribution to grocery retailers.

Foreign workers unable to travel

Why this urgent call to action? Put simply, the majority of these seasonal roles are normally fulfilled by foreign workers, who travel from Eastern Europe each year. Several have longstanding relationships with farmers and return year after year. However, travel restrictions because of coronavirus have dictated that they are unable to come here at the moment.

Of the 90,000 seasonal jobs available on farms, 70,000 are usually undertaken by migrant workers. As you might imagine, this leaves a huge shortfall. If the crops aren’t picked in time, they will rot and be unsaleable. Obviously this has a knock-on effect in terms of supply. Fewer crops harvested translates to a shortage on the supermarket shelves, not to mention the economic effects on the farmers.

It has been reported that around 450 Romanian nationals will be flying in from Bucharest this week, under strict travel controls. They will undertake social distancing on the flights and will be provided with masks and hand sanitisers. This will help to ease the situation a little in East Anglia where they have been allocated jobs to harvest and pack spring onions, peas and beans. Nevertheless, there are still hundreds of jobs to be filled, including pickers, packers, farm machinery operatives and delivery drivers.

Ethically sound farms

There are sometimes reports in the media of poor working conditions and excessive working hours in picking and packing operations. At Verner Wheelock we carry out SMETA ethical audits for a number of growers in the UK to ensure that decent working conditions, living conditions, pay, equality, and working hours are upheld. Recruitment for the ‘Feed the Nation’ initiative is via members of the Alliance of Ethical Labour Providers, so applicants can rest assured that the farms where they would be working meet the required standards.

In addition to receiving at least minimum wage and in many cases the National Living Wage (NLW), workers will receive free travel, health and dental care for the duration of their contract. They will also receive training for their role. This will include safe working practices in line with Government guidelines on social distancing, the wearing of appropriate PPE and should include food safety training.

Furloughed workers can now apply for farm jobs

The Government has recently announced that workers who are currently furloughed from their regular jobs because their employers have had to close due to coronavirus safeguarding, are eligible to apply to ‘Feed the Nation’ as long as their contracts allow it. Students are being encouraged to apply too. Anyone working on a farm will be classed as a key worker. This means they can travel to and from their place of work and their children can attend school.


For more information of how to apply and help the British farming industry in this time of crisis, please visit any of the following sites: https://hopslaboursolutions.com/seasonal-work/