Pinchbeck fruit firm enlists 'Student Land Army' to help it through COVID-19
A South Holland fruit producer has been reaping the benefits from a nationwide campaign aimed at bringing students into the food industry to fill seasonal roles.
Thirty students from Spalding and Holbeach have been working on the production lines and commercial teams at Worldwide Fruit, of Pinchbeck, as part of a "Student Land Army" campaign.
The apples, pears and avocados producer, now in its 20th year, recruited A-Level and degree students during the COVID-19 crisis to cover for any absentees caused by the pandemic.
Speaking to ITV ‘s Calendar News in June, Spalding High School student Libbi Burchnall said: “Usually at this time, I’d be sitting my A-Levels about now when factories and small businesses are short-staffed.
“I think it’s really good to get involved and it’s a good life experience as well.”
Also speaking to Calendar News, Libbi’s brother Harry Burchnall, a sixth-former at Spalding Grammar School, said: “The job is repetitive and it can be quite difficult.
“But it’s a challenge and this place (Worldwide Fruit) is all about challenges and opportunities.
“If you can rise to those challenges, you’ll be given opportunities.”
Ex-Spalding Grammar School student Joshua Lawrence told Calendar News: "I was working in the factory downstairs and was recommended by one of the directors to come up to the office because they needed a hand.
"As university is off at the moment, I'd probably just be at home, playing computer games or something."
Worldwide Fruit, which handles more than 52million packs of fruits per year, delivering them to retailers in the UK and overseas, has sponsored of the Most Improved Student category at the Lincolnshire Free Press and Spalding Guardian Education Awards since it started in 2014.
Speaking to the Free Press and Friday, operations director Neal Collishaw said: “We were using students prior to COVID-19, having created an evening shift so they could work from 5pm until 10pm.
“There were 15 A-Level students with us, so when schools and universities closed at the time COVID-19 broke out, we recognised a risk of key workers here being off for medical reasons.
“So we saw an opportunity to draw in as many students as possible to offer continuity of the business.
“The students were adapatable and able to learn quickly, fitting into roles from menial tasks in the office to procurement and managerial roles in our commercial teams.
"They were totally a breath of fresh air, they enjoyed the work and found it intriguing, not just working on the production line, but the sheer variety of countries and retailers the fruit we produce are going to.
"The feedback has been very positive and what it's given us is an opportunity to showcase the industry to young talent."
Vine House Farm, in Deeping St Nicholas, was another firm in South Holland to take on student workers during the pandemic.
Farmer Nicholas Watts said: "We took on three girls who were in their last term at school in Stamford.
"My granddaughter went to school with them and so one day when she was answering the telephone for our bird seed station, the three girls asked if they could come and work with us.
"They were picking, sorting and packing asparagus for two months, from mid-April until mid-June.
"The girls did a pretty good job and we've got a couple of boys who are doing some work for us as well."