Closing the yawning food and drink industry skills gap by attracting the next generation of industry scientists, engineers and technicians is the top priority of the new director of the National Skills Academy for Food and Drink (NSAFD) and the sector skills council Improve.
Justine Fosh, who was appointed this week, told FoodManufacture.co.uk that the government’s Industrial Partnerships project, launched last week, was an historic opportunity for food and drink manufacturers to take charge of delivering their own training needs.
“The industry has a fantastic opportunity to really make the most of where the government agenda is going with skills and the government’s desire to give employers a much greater say, not just in skills planning but to pass control moreover to employers,” said Fosh.
Part of the government’s Employer Ownership of Skills pilot project, Industrial Partnerships offers a second round of funding to provide skills training for industry.
Up to £150M of government cash is available to invest in skills training. But the funding offer is competitive so food and drink manufacturers will have to compete against retailers and those in hospitality and other sectors.
Fosh said the key to exploiting the funding offer successfully was a united food and drink industry voice. “What I will be calling for is a united approach by the food and drink sector to say we are better together. We want to put forward a really strong case to government for how we can improve the quality of apprenticeships, the landscape of skills and quality of delivery so that it is not just informed by employers but driven by them.
“It is important we don’t fragment and have different bits of the industry going off in different directions.”
So far, about 20 food and drink manufacturing companies and several trade associations are backing the funding bid. “Also at least one local enterprise partnership is bringing its food bid on board, so we have one industry-wide partnership, which is really exciting,” she said.
Fosh was formerly NSAFD executive director. Her appointment follows Jack Matthews’ decision to stand down from the role of chairman of NSAFD and Improve earlier this year.
Watch out for more on Fosh’s appointment later today.