The ice-cream man cometh

Henry
Inman is a remarkable champion of lifelong learning. His influence on Richmond
Frozen Confectionery’s employees – and the prisoners on work placements there –
has made continuous development a way of life. By Stephanie Sparrow

Sophisticated
technology and strict hygiene regulations fail to diminish the magic of touring
Richmond Frozen Confectionery’s ice-cream factory.

Although
the ingredients are encased in external silos until computers trigger their
journey into the building through gleaming steel pipe-work, the aromas escape,
tantalising the visitor’s nose.

Seeing
the ice-cream hit the tubs is a child’s dream. Chocolate, strawberry and vanilla
ooze from a trio of pipes to form perfect boxes of soft scoop Neapolitan. In a
separate area a sophisticated banoffee mixture is swirled into chic 500ml pots
for the adult market.

The
factory fulfils all childhood expectations, but the workforce defies the
stereotypes of a factory floor. From beneath their hygiene regulation headgear,
the faces reveal a cross-section of society in terms of sex, race and age.

The
company is proud of its innovative employment practices and its subscription to
New Deal, National Traineeship and Modern Apprenticeship programmes. Richmond
Frozen Confectionery is the only provider in North Yorkshire for food and drink
Modern Apprenticeships and National Traineeships and it is an award-winning
provider of training and work placements for prisoners.

The
factory is in Leeming Bar, the North Yorkshire base of Richmond Frozen
Confectionery, the UK’s largest independent manufacturer of ice-cream,
dominating the supply of own-label products to major food retailers.

Richmond
also owns the Treats ice-lolly brand based in Crossgates, West Yorkshire, which
it bought in a reverse takeover in 1998.

Workforce
numbers at Leeming Bar have grown from 20 in 1990 to a current 210. This
expansion, matched by investment in sophisticated technology, has pushed the
factory to be recognised as one of the most efficient in Europe.

Solid
training initiatives – there are 130 employees taking NVQs at the moment – and
high-profile activities, have moved in parallel with this growth. The annual
spend on training at Richmond – including funding from the Tecs and DfEE – is 1
per cent of turnover.

Training
evangelism

At
the centre of this activity is training development and human resources manager
Henry Inman, a determined Yorkshireman well-known throughout the region for his
training evangelism and unofficial ambassadorship of IIP.

He
successfully project managed IIP at his previous employer WCF Foods before
seeing it through to recognition at Richmond.

He
joined Richmond in 1998 to formalise its training function. The company has
engineered a culture change from dependency on external training consultants
with ad hoc activities to running its own educational institution, says Inman.

Since
he joined Richmond, he has put a lot of building blocks into place establishing
the Leeming Bar site as an approved centre for City & Guilds, GNVQ and
NEBS.

“An
educational institution makes sense for us,” he says. “It is a statement of
intent and gives our employees transferable credit.”

Progression
to IIP

He
is now advising and mentoring on progression to IIP at the Crossgates site,
with Richmond’s suppliers and to other employers in the region.

“We
think of our suppliers as stakeholders and if they think that their business
will support IIP, why not have a look at it? We run a one-day diagnostic for
them,” he says. “IIP is like a coat-hanger, he says. “It provides a basis to
hang quality initiatives on.”

Here
is someone who is not befuddled by the bureaucracies of NVQs but who gets
excited about the discipline of “logical incrementalism” which they inspire.

“Our
process standards are written à la NVQ,” says Inman, referring to the standards
written specifically at Richmond to ensure that operatives and team leaders
understand the technical complexities of their job role, looking at not only
how a machine works but how it is linked into cost leaders and maximum
efficiency.

NVQs
are used as a benchmark for the company. “They are used as a point of reference
for skills required in internal job advertisements,” says Inman.

No
one is forced to take NVQs but Richmond gives everybody the opportunity to take
them and looks for alternative ways of developing people if they don’t want to
participate.

Learning
for everybody

Inman
believes that training is for everybody. He embodies lifelong learning himself
as he has progressed from a hard-working farmer’s son who rejected the idea of
college until his early 20s in favour of work experience on the family farms,
to someone with a crateful of academic and vocational qualifications who will
start a doctorate at Durham University this autumn.

He
is passionate about other people’s development, frequently referring to the
buzz he gets from the “self-actualisation” of others, such as an employee
rejected by the education system who achieved NVQ Level 2 in middle age.

The
company was the “innovative practice award” winner at last year’s Investors in
People ceremony for its use of work placements for prisoners.

Inman
sees no difference in the training needs and aspirations of the prisoners who
travel 25 miles from Kirklevington Grange Prison in Cleveland. Neither does
anyone else in the factory, he claims.

“At
first the situation was that nobody knew there were serving prisoners in the factory,”
he says. “No one could see the difference because they weren’t treated
differently and now we are totally upfront about it.” The prisoners are treated
exactly the same as everyone else, he says.

Equal
opportunities

“We
have inductions for prisoners, New Dealers, Modern Apprenticeships, the whole
lot, it doesn’t matter, it is totally equal opportunities. When we evaluate the
induction it is great to see what some of prisoners write on the evaluation
form. They feel that they are regaining their self-respect,” he says.

The
prisoners are category D which means that they are in the final stages of their
sentence and considered to be of minimum risk to the general public if they
escape en route to work.

“They
are paid the same rate as other employees and in terms of employment law we
deal with them exactly as we would the others,” says Inman, who conducts job
interviews at the prison. “The only caveat to that is that they remain under
prison jurisdiction. We liaise with the prison over what time they should leave
Kirklevington to travel to a shift, and take into account the journey times so
that we can estimate what time they will arrive with us because they can use
their own vehicles.”

But
there are checks. “Prison officers come here and do audits. If they step out of
line the prison will come down here to collect them,” he says.

The
benefits to the prisoners, says Inman, are, “They get work experience, money
and if they have worked well they will get a reference and could be offered a
job. If they stay with us long enough they can create evidence towards NVQs.
One Kirklevington lad who left us got his train the trainer and team leadership
process standards and his food hygiene certificate, that’s a good portfolio of
documents.”

Of
course altruism is not the only reason that Richmond employs the prisoners. The
Leeming Bar site is in an affluent area of low unemployment, less than 2 per
cent, competing with many other food factories, so imaginative recruitment and training
go hand in hand to plug the gaps.

Reputation
for training

But
because the company is building a reputation for training, with full support
from the manufacturing director – Inman’s hotline to the board – and giving it
a high profile in areas such as the annual report and accounts, potential
employees are coming forwards all the time.

“Sixth
formers are seeing our Modern Apprenticeships scheme and asking what it is
about. They now see it as an alternative to college and stay here for a
three-year apprenticeship instead,” says Inman.

Last
year the company was in the top ten contenders for three national IIP award
categories: outstanding practice award, the innovative practice award and the
key champion award. It eventually won the innovative practice award but there
were other surprises too. The high profile activities led to it winning The
Yorkshire Award for Employment Creation and a National Training Award for the
most outstanding newly recognised IIP company in the North Yorkshire Tec
region.

Inman’s
next stage is to see through the benefits of IIP, which includes 22 employees
studying for their Diploma in Business Excellence.

“Richmond
is a dynamic company which has traditionally placed an intense focus on
operations in order to give customer satisfaction. We are now taking a more
holistic approach as an Investor in People with a passionate belief in employee
development and the achievement of business excellence,” he says.

He
is also going to complete an MBA, prepare for his studies with Durham University
which will look at educational management of team leaders in a manufacturing
environment, and continue to promote the benefits of IIP in the region.

CV
– Henry Inman

1971-1983
Working on family farms
1979 Diploma in agriculture with distinction
1983-1986 Set up a farm shop
1986-1994 Various supervisory and management jobs, WCF Foods
1994-1998 Production manager with whole site personnel and training
responsibilities, WCF Foods
1998 Training, development and human resources manager, Richmond Frozen Confectionery

Qualifications
1982-1991 Various food hygiene and quality management qualifications
1995 NVQ Level 5 in Management BTEC
1997 BA in Business Administration
1998 Advanced Diploma in Adult & Continuing Education
1999 PGCE in Education, MA in Education

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