“The food industry shows university isn’t the only route to success”

Posted: 29 August 2023 | | No comments yet

Dermot Hawkins, Finnebrogue Operations’ Director, explains his view on why businesses in the food sector should be investing in people that demonstrate hard work, personal development and social mobility regardless of their educational background.


It is the time of year when young people receive their exam results and consider their futures. But this moment alone won’t determine their future life chances. Just look at the food industry – and the example of our brilliant Finnebrogue family.

We have built a diverse team of 1200 loyal people; from different backgrounds and with different life experiences.

Take Joe, the general manager of our sausage factory. Joe started life as a bricklayer having left school at 16 with no qualifications. He joined us as a sausage packer in 2011, then earning minimum wage. He now leads a team of 600 people and runs the UK’s most advanced sausage production facility.

Then there is Egle, who took an entry level job with us in 2013. She soon learnt the skills to become a machine operator, developed the leadership qualities to become a supervisor and two years ago became our night shift operations manager, with responsibility for leading a team of 300 people.

Or Rachael, who as a student joined us part-time in 2021 to help produce our pigs in blankets for Christmas. She has made an outstanding contribution to the Finnebrogue family, since deciding to stay with us full time. Rachael is neurodiverse, but that hasn’t set her back. She was recognised for embodying everything Finnebrogue is about by her peers this year, being named one of our monthly values champions.

Investing in people

These are stories of hard work, personal development and social mobility. They are stories that show what a good job can do for people’s life chances and those of their families – and what can be done if businesses invest in their people. They are stories of impressive people applying themselves in the workplace and reaping the rewards.

And they don’t have to begin with a degree from a top rank university or twelve A*s at GCSE.

exam hall

Hawkins explains that intelligence comes in many different forms and “impressive people” don’t have to begin with a degree from a “top rank university or twelve A*s at GCSE”.

At Finnebrogue we seek to attract intelligent people who act with integrity and bring with them bundles of energy. Intelligence comes in many different forms – and our business can only succeed if we build brilliant, bright and diverse teams.

We are proud of our academic highflyers, but we also want people like Joe, Egle and Rachael who may not always have been top of the English Literature or trigonometry class growing up. They too will be our leaders of tomorrow.

About the author

dermot hawkinsDermot Hawkins is operations director at Finnebrogue. He has overall responsibility for Finnebrogue’s four sites in County Down, Northern Ireland, from which the business supplies sausages, burgers, nitrite-free bacon and plant-based alternatives to UK retailers. Dermot previously worked for Moy Park and Coca Cola.

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