The new skills framework project has the backing of the Institute of Food Science & Technology, food and drink sector skills council Improve, the Food and Drink Federation and William Reed Business Media publisher of FoodManufacture.co.uk and sister title Food Manufacture.
Jack Matthews, chief executive of Improve, described the investment as a “vote of confidence” in food and drink manufacturing from government. “This is welcome validation of the economic importance of food and drink as the UK’s largest manufacturing industry,” he said.
“At a time of necessary financial restraint, the case for taxpayer investment in food manufacturing skills, as against investment in other sectors, had to be strong and the payback to the economy and on-going commitment of employers evident.”
The £1.7M investment will cover about half the cost of the new skills programme. Food and drink businesses have committed to match the government’s investment in cash, time and in-kind support.
Improve presented four skills projects, backed by leading food and drink firms, to funding decision-makers the UK Commission for Employment and Skills. Those included:
- Tasty Graduates: A new UK centre of excellence in food production engineering and a new food engineering university programme. These will provide a minimum of 40 graduate engineers a year and promote food engineering as a discipline and a profession.
- Blueprint for Excellence: An industry-wide ‘gold standard’ for the professional standards and competencies expected of workers in specific food industry jobs.
- Business Performance Benchmarks: A project designed to allow food and drink companies to reproduce the approach of best-in-class businesses in driving performance through training. This project will be modelled on the Department for Trade and Industry Benchmarking Index.
- Tasty Jobs: A pre-employment training programme currently designed to ensure 600 unemployed people find work in the food and drink sector.
Justine Fosh, director of Improve’s National Skills Academy for Food & Drink will play a key role in delivering many of the skills projects. Fosh said: “We are here to support the industry by collaborating with businesses to solve the sector’s skills issues and as such, the proposals put forward were a very strong reflection of the needs of companies in the sector.
“Now that funding has been confirmed, we welcome approaches from food businesses and trade associations to get even more directly involved - and to contact us if there are other areas of activity that they would like to see addressed by future rounds of government skills investment in the sector.”
The project initially failed to win backing under the first round of bidding for the government’s Growth Innovation Fund (GIF) announced in July 2011.
Speaking in August, Matthews said: “This project is too important not to go ahead. It is one of the strongest consortiums of trade organizations, employers of all sizes and bodies in the sector.”
More follows later.