Related tags Drink sector skills Food manufacture Apprenticeship

Skills shortage solutions are on the way


Your article 'Call for positive spin on career chances' (Food Manufacture June 2005, p5) quite rightly highlights a crucial issue for the sector -- that of skills shortages holding back business growth. Our own research endorses the findings of the Food Manufacture reader survey and confirms what most employees already know about the difficulty of finding key staff and the detrimental effect this has on productivity and profits.

Yes, the industry needs to work harder at making careers more attractive and any PR initiatives are to be applauded. But at the root of the problem is a fundamental lack of any co-ordinated vocational and occupational training structure which would lead young people into the sector and give them a clear direction in career development.

The good news is that help is on its way. Improve, the food and drink sector skills council, has been established precisely to address this problem and in our first year of operation we have already achieved significant progress. Our purpose is to drive up skills to achieve world-class productivity and higher profits. Our motto is 'Profit through skills'.

The most important task is to establish the UK's first Skills Academy for Food and Drink Manufacturing. It will be shaped and governed by employers; providing training programmes that incorporate the best that is known about meeting employers' needs and forming a hub of specialist vocational training expertise and resources for all universities, colleges, training providers and schools. We have already consulted many employers and will be talking to more in the coming months as we put together our blueprint for this exciting project.

We are also introducing many other initiatives. Our new career-planning website, called Roots, which is at http://www.improveltd.co.uk​, is the UK's first comprehensive source of information on everything to do with recruitment, training and skills in food and drink manufacturing.

And we have just launched the first UK-wide record of skills achievements by employees in food and drink manufacturing. The Improve Green Card provides centrally-held, accredited, accessible information about the skills developed and qualifications achieved by every employee in the sector. Training providers and employers will be able to access the information to verify an individual's achievements and to assess his or her development needs. Employees, will have an independent record of skills and achievements.

More is in the pipeline, including specialist training for managers in the recruitment and training of overseas nationals. We are consulting employers at every step. Change does take time, but employers should not despair. The more they talk to us about their needs, the more we will be able to help them achieve more profit through skills.

Jack Matthews

Chief executive


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