If you read the earlier blog posts, you’ll know that Verner Wheelock Associates’ first home was in Bradford, but as the company began to expand it moved to the Broughton Hall Business Park near Skipton, North Yorkshire. Originally the company was based in the North Barn building and later at Archway Court. In 2003 it moved within the park yet again to its current location at Stable Courtyard – a fitting address given the Wheelock family’s love of horses (Jan is active with the Riding for the Disabled Association and Alison and her younger sister, Kathryn, compete in dressage events).
A time of change
Moving to new premises was just one of a number of changes at Verner Wheelock during the first decade of the 21st Century. Verner and Jan’s daughter, Alison, joined the company in 2005, bringing her marketing expertise and a desire to build on the foundations of the successful business that Verner and Jan had developed. Plus the variety of courses offered by the company expanded even further. They were already offering Levels 2 to 4 in HACCP, Food Safety and Nutrition as well as Supplier Auditing, Auditing Skills and Lead Auditor courses, but began introducing a number of more specialist courses.
For example, flavour chemistry expert Dr David Baines (you might remember that he headed up the Butchers’ Licensing scheme for which VWA did so much work) saw an opportunity for a course which focused purely on the development and evaluation of savoury flavours. He wrote the course ‘Creating Savoury Flavours’ together with colleague Richard Seal and it was marketed and delivered through VWA. It was at the time, and still remains, the only course of its kind in the UK. Now in its 8th year, Creating Savoury Flavours is still as popular as ever amongst flavourists worldwide and has attracted delegates from as far afield as Japan, Brazil and Argentina from some of the largest food manufacturing and flavourings companies in the world.
More specialist courses to meet customer needs
Other courses over the past 15 years have been driven by legislation or realising a need for training in particular areas. Good examples include Managing Food Allergens in Food Manufacturing and Creative Legal Labelling – a course designed by VWA to assist companies in understanding new labelling laws under the EU Food Information for Consumers Regulation 2014.
More recently, combatting food fraud has become high on the agenda – indeed there is a whole new section dedicated to product authenticity in the latest edition of the BRC Global Standard for Food Safety. In response to this Verner Wheelock has developed a new course – Threat Analysis Critical Control Points, or TACCP for short, which has proven very popular.
Popular also are the regular BRC Update courses which take delegates through all the changes in the BRC Global Standard for Food Safety and give advice and guidance on how to prepare for their next audit. The latest course covers changes between BRC version 6 and BRC version 7. Allied to the BRC Update course is another new course introduced only recently – Root Cause Analysis. This explains how to identify root cause issues for corrective actions and how to put in place preventative measures to meet BRC Standard requirements.
The conditions under which factory workers produce goods is another area which has become more and more important to both consumers and retailers alike. The steady growth in sales of Fairtrade products is testament to this. For the past 9 or 10 years Verner Wheelock has run a series of Ethical Trading audits and workshops which are were highly praised by Marks & Spencer and The Co-operative in particular and were tutored by Ethical and Social Auditor, Keith Stamp – an expert in this field. Keith leads a team of auditors who perform SMETA ethical audits of suppliers to major retailers.
Helping women to achieve their goals
Women make up just 32% of the workforce in food and drink manufacture, and a very small percentage of these are in management roles. To help redress the balance Verner Wheelock has successfully helped to secure training grants of up to £800 per applicant for eligible women delegates on various training courses. This has been achieved through VWA’s membership of the National Skills Academy for Food and Drink (NSAFD) and the UK Commission for Employment and Skills’ Women and Work initiative. So far, more than 100 delegates have improved their skills and potential for promotion thanks to Verner Wheelock’s participation in the scheme.
The widespread use of the internet meant that the time was also right to develop online versions of some courses. As a result Level 2 basic food safety and hygiene was first offered through vernr Wheelock as a modular online course around 10 years ago. This allowed people to complete it in their own time and at their own pace – a boon for those with busy work schedules. Around the same time the Nutrition, Healthy Foods & Special Diets course was offered as an e-learning course and online Level 3 Food Safety was introduced at a later date.
Bigger premises and new branding
As Verner Wheelock continued to go from strength to strength it was clear that larger premises were required. As luck would have it, the business downstairs moved out in 2013. So they took the opportunity to create a new larger training room upstairs complete with state of the art smart board and move the office downstairs. It was around the same time that the new branding was developed and formally launched at the Foodex Exhibition 2014.
Verner Wheelock has always prided itself on the quality of the courses it offers and it seems the results speak for themselves. Verner Wheelock delegates have won the RSPH awards for Level 4 Food Safety for the past two years and also scooped the prize for L4 HACCP at last year’s RSPH Awards Ceremony.
However the company is not new to national awards and their students have been successful on numerous occasions since 1997. See www.vwa.co.uk/awards.htm for more details.
To mark Verner Wheelock’s 25th anniversary, the company has launched its own awards. These will be presented in the following categories:
- Best HACCP Student
- Best Auditing Student
- Best Food Safety Student
There will also be awards for Individual Excellence and Company Excellence. Nominations for the awards will be made by Verner Wheelock course tutors throughout the year.
Here’s to the next 25 years!