Secretary of state for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Owen Paterson, also attended the meeting to discuss the Skills Week programme, which starts on Monday, September 17.
The scheme will see more than 70 of the UK’s largest manufacturers and retailers, including Premier Foods, Bakkavör and Greencore, open their factories, farms and stores to the nation’s unemployed youngsters.
They will be given first-hand knowledge of the qualities needed for a career in the food industry and benefit from training activities such as presentation and interview tips.
The food and grocery industry is the UK’s biggest employer providing 3.5M – or one in seven – jobs.
Paterson said he hoped the week would help the prospects of thousands of young people, but also showcase the wide range of careers on offer in the industry.
“The food sector is helping to drive the UK’s economy recovery and has ambitious plans for further growth, seizing the export opportunities offered by soaring global demand for high quality British products,” he said.
“But this will only happen if we get the right people into the right jobs, and give them the skills to use new ideas and technology to keep UK businesses at the forefront of the global food industry.”
The food manufacturing industry has rallied to the call to do its bit to get the economy moving.
Agust Gudmundsson, ceo of Bakkavör, was one of the industry figures present at Downing Street who gave a glowing endorsement of the scheme.“The UK food and grocery industry is a world class industry,” he said.
“Bakkavör is passionate about supporting this initiative and helping to provide young people with the opportunity to develop the skills and confidence to join the workforce.”
Fiona Dawson. president of Mars Chocolate UK, said it was vital to inspire the 1M young people who were out of work and equip them with the skills needed to find a job.
“The food industry is a fantastic place to work and it is important that we showcase the exciting and diverse range of careers it offers,” she said.
Her views were echoed by Patrick Coveney, Greencore ceo, who added: “It is important that we all play our part in addressing the challenge which faces young people in the UK today.”
It was decided at the Number 10 meeting the PM and Paterson would meet with food industry leaders every six months to monitor progress.
Angela Coleshill, the Food and Drink Federation’s employment, skills and corporate services director, said: “On behalf of our members, we are delighted to support IGD’s ‘Feeding Britain’s Future – Skills for Work Week’. This timely and ground-breaking initiative has the power to make a positive and significant difference to the future working lives of young people in the UK.
“Food and drink manufacturing employs over 400,000 people across the country and we recognise that we can make an important contribution towards tackling youth unemployment.”