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.
At the centre of this activity is training development and human resources manager Henry Inman, a determined Y