Liam Melton is a shining example of a new generation taking the milling industry into the future. As technical milling co-ordinator at Whitworth Bros’ Wellingborough plant, Liam has full responsibility for flour production, maintenance planning, and providing technical support to the shift milling team. But ask him about how he got his big career break and the 25-year-old freely admits he owes it all to his Auntie Denise.
“Denise has worked at Wellingborough for over 40 years and is currently the mill’s supply chain manager,” Liam explains. “When I was leaving school she suggested I came in to do some work experience. The job was helping her with filing, but the more I learned about what went on at the mill the more I was inspired to work there.”
During breaks from his filing job, Liam was able to explore the workings of the plant and discovered that milling was nothing like he’d imagined. In particular he was fascinated by the technical side of the production process – and he realised that it opened up possibilities to fulfil his own ambitions. “I’ve always been technically minded, and I saw that there were lots of opportunities within the mill that would help me develop my skills,” he says. “It was a surprise, because like most people I had a very old-fashioned image of milling.” After leaving school Liam attended a local college to secure an NVQ in motor vehicle engineering, but when a lab trainee job came up at Whitworths he leapt at the opportunity. “From there it was a case of working up through the ranks and taking as many qualifications as possible,” he says. So far those qualifications have included a nabim intermediate certificate, Level 2 food safety in manufacturing and Level 2 in the principles of HACCP.
“The job takes time to learn and only gets easier with experience – but if you’re keen and committed, a quick learner, a team player and computer literate you have all the basics to make a successful career in the industry.
“Most people buy flour from the supermarket without ever wondering where it came from, and if they are aware of the flour milling industry they think we’re still working in windmills! “When I tell them about the technology that is involved, they’re amazed. People from outside the industry always seem to be fascinated by what I do. “The industry is largely unknown, yet within it there is scope to do so much, whether it’s sales or engineering. It’s a fantastic career and a great opportunity for young people.”
"My ambition now is to build up experience within the management structure to take the next step with Whitworths. But the best thing about your job is that every day is different, throwing up new and exciting challenges.” Liam has become an enthusiastic advocate for a career in milling, giving talks in schools and colleges.