Food and drink manufacturers need to be more proactive in how they appeal to prospective students looking for a career in the industry, says Paul Wilkinson, chairman elect of Improve, the new Food and Drink Sector Skills Council.
Wilkinson warns that companies will struggle to recruit enough staff in the future using their current recruitment practices."We need a positive approach by major employers to encourage people to come and work in the industry," he says. "The industry needs to get at people at school level. We need to get companies to accept students and to take school parties around their factories."
Careers Scotland, an advisory body that is part of Scottish Enterprise, recently held a food and drink industry awareness day at the University of Abertay in Scotland to encourage potential students to join the food industry.
Ann Colquhoun, course tutor at the university, says: "The food and drink sector is facing the challenge of ever higher consumer expectations. In order to meet those expectations, it needs a highly qualified workforce with a clear understanding of food, nutrition, health and their inter-relationships.
Careers Scotland is also running a Schools Food and Drink Challenge, which aims to develop links between secondary schools and local food and drink manufacturers. Scottish pupils are being encouraged to create their own products and can receive guidance from food companies and students as part of the challenge.