New apprentice aims to keep old skills alive

Glen Dawson and Karen Wilkin at Swallow Fish in Seahouses.

Glen Dawson and Karen Wilkin at Swallow Fish in Seahouses.

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Teenagers are normally frowned upon when they are caught smoking – not in Glen Dawson’s case!

The 16-year-old has been recruited at a smokehouse in Seahouses as an apprentice in the ancient process of smoking fish, with the help of Northumberland College.

In March 2014, Swallow Fish started looking for a suitable candidate to help grow the business and keep the artisan skills alive.

Glen, from Beadnell near Seahouses, left school in June and started his apprenticeship with Swallow Fish in July.

He is following a two-year Level 2 Performing Manufacturing Operations Apprenticeship, which will enable him to gain a qualification while learning the skills of this traditional trade.

Husband and wife team, Patrick and Karen Wilkin, who own and run the smokehouse, decided to recruit an apprentice to help expand their business and reach new markets.

It will provide Glen with hands-on experience of the whole production experience, including skills such as unloading freshly caught fish and shellfish, splitting, lighting fires, smoking, curing and slicing, as well as the business aspects such as mail order, retail, wholesale and customer service.

Karen said: “Our apprentice will gain an abundance of experience in all aspects of the business.

“It is a rare opportunity for someone to learn unique skills and develop a career in a niche market, while learning transferable skills that can be applied to other manufacturing roles.”

Once Glen has completed his apprenticeship he will have all the skills needed to work with fresh fish and shellfish, and in the traditional smokehouses.

Glen said: “I’m pleased to have the opportunity to gain hands-on experience while working towards a qualification.”

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