Lord Haskins of Skidby has become the first patron for the Skills Academy in Food and Drink.
The academy, which is being developed by Improve, the food and drink sector skills council, will open in Autumn 2006, subject to final government approval. It will focus the drive to bring more highly-skilled workers into UK food and drink manufacturing, boosting efficiency and propelling the sector forward to become the most productive in the world.
Lord Haskins is the first of a planned select group of patrons - food and drink big-hitters who will lend public support to the academy, helping to raise its profile within the industry and among the wider public. The patron’s role will also be to encourage involvement from employers, who will play pivotal roles in managing the academy and determining much of its direction in order to meet the needs of the sector.
Jack Matthews, chief executive of Improve, said: "To have the backing of someone of Lord Haskin’s standing is a real boost for the academy, and will no doubt contribute to its success by helping to secure continued support from employers.”
The Skills Academy in Food and Drink will comprise a nationwide network of specialist centres of excellence. Most will be based on existing training institutions, which will become accredited to deliver relevant, high-quality learning programmes geared to meeting a mixture of regional and UK-wide needs. There will also be an on-line centre of excellence, which will be accessible through a sophisticated website that will form a communications hub for the entire network.
Lord Haskins commented: “I feel privileged to be involved in such an exciting project that will benefit not only the food and drink industry, but the country’s economy as a whole.”
Lord Haskins was born in Ireland, the son of a farmer. After moving to England, he joined Northern Foods in 1962, and held the role of chairman from 1986 to 2002. He is also a former chairman of Express Dairies. He has advised both the UK and Irish Governments on agricultural, economic and environmental policy and has been awarded six honorary doctorates, including one from the University of Cranfield for his work in the food industry. He now spends most of his time in his role as chair of the Open University Council. He lives in Skidby, East Yorkshire, where he farms 800 acres of arable land.