I agree wholeheartedly with David Gregory, chairman of Assured Food Standards, that our sector skills councils should co-ordinate their efforts to "enable skills transfer across the industry" (Food Manufacture, June 2010, p7).
At Improve we have set up a Food Supply Chain Cluster of food-related sector skills councils, which are working with relevant stakeholders to create a single, cohesive vision for developing the workforce across the supply chain.
The entire food supply chain, from manufacturing and processing, catering and retail, to farming and agriculture, has a turnover of £155bn and employs 3.6M people. By seeing these activities as an integrated joined-up system, food and drink can play a major role in revitalising the UK economy.
It makes sense for us to work with a common purpose on driving a skills agenda that will allow us to meet our future performance priorities and help achieve sustainability and security in our food supply.
As Gregory says, the need to create training programmes that are relevant, flexible and efficient to help keep costs to a minimum and allow for cross-sector skills transfer is vital.
Improve and the National Skills Academy for Food and Drink Manufacturing are already pursuing this goal. Our Improve Proficiency Qualifications (IPQs) have been developed in consultation with employers to help build flexible, work-relevant skills.
IPQs will help boost trust and engagement in training. We are keen to look at opportunities for tying in our work in this area with what our partners are doing across the supply chain.
Jack Matthews is chief executive of sector skills agency Improve