Employer of Choice – Foodworks Macksville

Nambucca Valley Youth Event Special Edition

Can you tell me a little bit about who you are and what kind of business Foodworks Macksville is?
My name is Mathew Ward, and I’m the Store Manager of Foodworks Macksville. I’ve been working in the store since 2002 when I started as a casual deli assistant in Year 10. Foodworks is part of the Nambucca Cooperative – we are community-owned, all our staff are local, we supply local products as much as we can, and we have good price and range competitiveness. The store is independent, under the umbrella Foodworks company from which we source stock from preferred suppliers – the majority of lines are sourced and decided by us. We employ 53 staff including office and liquor store staff. We have 24 employees under 25 – 45% of our staff are under 25.

What kind of roles are there in your business for young people?
Customer service, check out roles, stock replenishment, safe food handling, a little bit of inventory management; we have two fulltime butchers, so every 3 years we take on a butcher’s apprentice. In our induction process for young people, I run them through real life situations on the shop floor.

What are some the good things about employing young people?

Enthusiasmthey come fresh from school and home, so everything is new and interesting to them. They absorb new information quickly – they’re like sponges! They are willing and quick to learn, will give things a go.

Induction for fruit and veg is more complex, but they pick it up really quickly. They also engage the young customers, bringing in their school friends and their parents, which is important because our customer base tends to be older. 

What are some of the challenges?
Availability and wanting to work. Many young people have limited availability – we have a minimum availability that we need our employees to have, to function as a business. There are also issues around technology and social media. We have a locker system where everyone puts their wallets, keys, phone before their shift starts. Some young people have trouble being separated from their phone while they work.

What have you learned about employing young people?
There are always opportunities – I started as a 6/hours a week deli kid and now I’m the store manager. There are always opportunities to step up and move forward in this industry. A lot of people move away for work, but they don’t have to – there is opportunity in local businesses if you work for it.

What is some advice you could give another employer who would like to employ young people in their business?
Face to face application and interview styles are the best. Informal interviews such as onsite chats and practical training work better than intimidating one-on-one interviews with trick questions.

For more information on support for business, visit our Business Support Hub.

If you know a young person who is having a hard time, you can refer them to:

Kids Support Line: 1800 55 1800
Lifeline: 131114

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