British Sugar’s Experience of PAA\VQ-SET’s Bespoke Qualification Service


British Sugar is unique - the only company in the UK manufacturing sugar from locally grown sugar beet, at its 4 factories (Cantley, Wissington, Newark and Bury St Edmunds). Sugar manufacture is highly complex, requiring skilled process operatives to manage and control a range of interconnected processes.


In 2011, in a highly competitive market, British Sugar embarked on a unique evidence based development programme for all its factory operatives to ensure its products maintain the highest quality and remain competitive. This development programme also offers the opportunity to gain a nationally recognised qualification.

Central to the programme are sets of locally developed competence and knowledge units embodying best practice. The units, developed with the full co-operation and involvement of operatives, managers and the union, cover all technical aspects of the manufacturing process, as well as health and safety, environmental and product quality and personal attributes.


The units were verified by COGENT to ensure they met process industry standards, and awarded their Gold Standard.


PAA\VQ-SET were then approached to help identify suitable qualifications. However, none of the generic qualifications matched British Sugar’s specialised operations. PAA\VQ-SET suggested developing customised qualifications incorporating the locally developed competence and knowledge units, and helped construct the units into a number of level 3 qualifications (Awards, Certificates and Diplomas).


In addition, PAA\VQ-SET helped establish a registered centre at the Bury St Edmonds factory and provided full consultancy support to ensure the centre met all national requirements.


The qualifications are now embedded in the factory grading scheme and an apprenticeship scheme.


In addition to the formal qualifications, the units are used as part of British Sugar’s performance development process and all training is now competence-based and linked to the units.

Through this development programme, both factory managers and process operatives have seen improved levels of competence and motivation.


The support given by PAA\VQ-SET played a significant role in helping to establish the new programme. Its proven success has resulted in the model being used for other apprentices within the factory, including CHP (Combined Heat and Power) operatives and maintenance technicians.


Paul Stringer, British Sugar’s Operations Development Manager, said: “Customised qualifications describe the specific operational skills needed for our business. By developing the competence and knowledge units in-house, with input from operators and the union, it made it easier to include them in our revised grading scheme.


“In addition, they now form a key part of our performance development process, provide the basis for focussed, practical development interventions, and allow us to measure the improvement in capability provided by these interventions.”

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