A Skipton businesswoman has been shortlisted for a national business award.

Alison Wheelock, managing director of food industry training company Verner Wheelock, has reached the finals of the Business Chameleon category of the annual National Women’s Business Awards.

The Business Chameleon Award is a new category for 2020 and invited nominations for those business leaders who had successfully adapted their business offering and practices in order to continue during this challenging year.

Rachel Coote, who nominated Alison said: “Alison fully deserves this. She has adapted the business offering to ensure that keyworkers in the food industry are able to continue with essential training and has kept staff and trainers in employment.”

As a company providing face-to-face training courses either at its training centre on the Broughton Hall Estate or on-site at customers’ premises, Covid-19 lockdown could have proved problematic for Verner Wheelock. Alison was determined that as many courses as possible should run and so organised the IT, infrastructure and training to make this a reality.

In April 2020, Verner Wheelock moved to providing live training courses in HACCP, food safety, auditing and specialist subjects such as food labelling and food allergens via Zoom and Microsoft Teams. Customer feedback about the remotely delivered courses has been very positive. As it looks like remote training is here to stay, the company plans to develop these courses further in 2021.

Alison’s staff all continued to work full-time from home during the first lockdown, thanks to the company’s VoIP phone system, cloud-based accounts package and contact database, and daily staff Zoom meetings, which keep everyone up-to-date, and also promote staff wellbeing. The close-knit team at Verner Wheelock proved that they were adaptable and could find new ways of working under difficult circumstances, enabling the company to continue its busy training schedule, providing courses to key workers employed in food and drink manufacturing and retailing.

In September Verner Wheelock was able to resume classroom-based courses, but with limited numbers to comply with social distancing rules. The company has also successfully run ‘dual delivery’ training with learners in the training room and online simultaneously.

Verner Wheelock celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2020. It provides high quality training to companies such as Warburtons, Muller, Princes, Nestle and Pladis as well as smaller businesses and has trained several RSPH award winners.