Food and drink companies have been warned that they will have to stump up much more cash to support the sector's proposed Skills Academy if it is to gain government funding.
The scheme, proposed by the food and drink industry's sector skills council, Improve, is intended to deliver training programmes tailored to individual company needs.
Improve's chief executive Jack Matthews urged more firms to come forward with pledges of commitment, cash or in kind, as the government's Learning and Skills Council (LSC) considers Improve's business plan for the Skills Academy. The LSC is expected to reach a decision on October 23.
"This is the time and the opportunity for employers to get behind their sector skills academy and gain a major vehicle which can deliver skills productivity and performance," said Matthews.
Warburtons, Arla Foods, Nestlé and Coca-Cola were already offering support and commitment, giving their time, the expertise of staff - including senior executives - and offering access to training programmes and facilities, said Matthews. "But to access government funding we must demonstrate that employers are also prepared to make a contribution of cash or a cash equivalent. They have to be seen to be making a strong investment in the academy." A significant proportion of employer contribution would have to be in cash, Matthews stressed.
In return, employers would for the first time be able to design skills programmes specific to their needs and have them delivered, promised Matthews. Companies would be able to access the Skills Academy's programmes on site, on-line or through the network of Centres of Excellence: "By coming forward and committing to this opportunity for the sector, employers are buying their share of raising productivity and performance in the future."
Warburton's md, Brett Warburton, said that a tangible commitment was crucial. "We have to convince the government that we, the employers, recognise that investment in skills for the sector as a whole will benefit us in the long run," he said. "If we want training provision to be employer-led and to meet the needs of employers, it follows that employers will have to support the initiatives that deliver what we have asked for."
The initiative had some "heavy hitters" behind it, said Matthews. Patrons included Lord Haskins and champions included Sir Harry Studholme, chairman of the South West Food Group, and Robin Southgate, chairman of the East Midlands Food Forum.
- Is your firm prepared to put cash into the proposed Skills Academy? Have your say in the new Food Manufacture on-line poll, at http://www.foodmanufacture.co.uk.