Skills and training initiatives for trade gather momentum

Related tags Drink sector skills Agriculture Food Food security Food and drink federation

Skills and training initiatives for trade gather momentum
Pace of progress on delivering workforce of future increases as projects bear fruit

The entire food supply chain and training bodies are uniting to launch a full-frontal assault to fill the gaping hole in jobs and skills facing food and drink processors, with activity intensifying.

Food and drink sector skills council Improve is seeking more government support to avert a skills crisis in the industry, which will need to replace 137,000 people by 2017.

Presenting the industry's case to the Food and Drink Manufacturing All-Party Group Meeting at Westminster last month, Improve chief executive Jack Matthews described a demographic time-bomb caused by an ageing workforce. He called on government to fund accumulated training units and modules instead of just full qualifications.

"If we continuously just force people down the simple full fat qualification route, you are not going to meet the needs of either the employer or the individual," Matthews said. "We must have a more flexible approach ... we need to attract new talent; not just replace people who are leaving."

A 'food cluster' of sector skills councils, including those representing farming, logistics and retail, has been formed to take a holistic approach to skills. Improve is working with these groups to map all qualifications across the supply chain.

Improve is also awaiting £6.8M of funds via the Young Person's Guarantee Scheme to train 2,500 jobless young people under 25 for food and drink careers.

Separately, the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council announced last month that it was committing up to £15M for the Advanced Training Partnerships Scheme, offering training for food security research and development. The announcement came after the Agri-Skills Strategy aimed at boosting skills in the agricultural industry was launched by Lantra, the sector skills council for environmental and land-based industries, last month.

The launch of the National Skills Academy for Food and Drink Manufacturing Scotland is expected this month, along with news on a £3.5M funding bid to finish a training dairy at Reaseheath College, Cheshire. The facility is spearheading Project Eden, which focuses on dairy technologist training.

Sainsbury chief executive Justin King will deliver a keynote speech on training at grocery think tank IGD's Food & Grocery Skills & Employment Summit on March 10 at the British Museum, London. He will stress the importance of integrated training from farm to fork.

To help raise the profile of food manufacturing with government, the Food and Drink Federation has joined with Improve, the Institute of Food Science & Technology and Manufacturing Insight, a body dedicated to raising the image of UK manufacturing.