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Award highlights opportunities in meat sector

One of the Scottish red meat sector’s brightest management stars has been awarded a prestigious national award.

Jenny Harkness, General Manager at AK Stoddart, was recently awarded the Management Trainee of the Year award at the Meat Management Industry Awards 2009, held at the Royal Garden Hotel in Kensington, London.

After completing a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture degree, Jenny started with AK Stoddart on a six month graduate placement. She then became a member of the permanent team, working at the abattoir and cutting plant helping address any problems in the production chain and improve efficiency, with a focus on “lean production”.

Quality Meat Scotland co-funded Jenny’s place on the Red Meat Industry Forum Fellowship in 2007 which enhanced her leadership skills, understanding of finance and change management. Her RMIF coach, Christine Walsh, nominated her for the award.

Following the announcement, Jenny said: “I didn’t know I was going to win the award until it was announced on the night so it was a surprise for everyone. The award recognised the improvements delivered within the company and applying the learning I had developed through the RMIF Fellowship.

“My background is in agriculture and I had an interest in the processing side, and after graduating and gaining experience overseas was given a great opportunity to work in a sector that had always interested me.

“It’s a sector that offers lots of opportunities if you go after them, and it offers you a wide skills base that you can apply to other industries.

“One of my main aims was applying lean manufacturing principles, which has worked so well on car manufacturing business, and has been proven to be transferable to meat processing.  AK Stoddart are a very forward thinking business in a traditional industry and I had full support from the board to challenge our current operations to continue improving our business processes.”

Donald Biggar, Chairman of QMS said that Jenny’s award would hopefully as a catalyst for a whole crop of new talent to come into the industry.

He said:  “We’d like to offer our congratulations to Jenny for winning such a prestigious award in what was a closely contested category.

“Sterling candidates such as Jenny show that for the right people a career in the Scottish red meat sector and the food sector can offer great opportunities in management and give you the wide range of transferable skills and knowledge to make you an asset to any company.

“It’s a credit to her employer that they are willing to invest in the training and development of staff, and with her boundless enthusiasm for the business and innovative ideas it’s an investment that’s sure to reap dividends for years to come.

“I hope she can act as a catalyst for a new crop of young people to bring fresh ideas and innovation into what is an increasingly important sector to the Scottish Economy.”