The government is conducting a review of the National Curriculum, which could lead to design and technology (D&T) being taught to a far smaller number of children than at any time since its inception in 1989.
The review has prompted the creation last month of the We Believe in D&T campaign, coordinated by business leaders alarmed at the implications of design and technology being downgraded as a subject.
The Chilled Food Association (CFA) is one of the campaign’s signatories and along with the Food & Drink Federation (FDF) is playing an active role in promoting food science in schools.
In September the Chilled Food Association launched Chilled Education, a set of free classroom resources and lesson plans for primary and secondary school children.
Lessons will cover every aspect of chilled food production from new product development to packaging and marketing.
Kaarin Goodburn, CFA secretary general, said: “The one thing we have to be able to do in this country is feed ourselves yet the food industry is taken for granted. It’s not recognised by the government that the food industry is such a huge manufacturer and has a great need for skills. It’s not seen as very sexy.
“People should be aware that there are massive opportunities and very rewarding careers in food. UK chilled food scientists and technology are sought after worldwide. People are being poached from our limited supply and we need to increase the pool.”
Angela Coleshill, FDF’s director of competitiveness, told FoodManufacture.co.uk: “Given our current shortage of food scientists and technologists, with around 20% of these positions classed as ‘hard to fill’ in the food and drink industry, we believe there is a need for a more modern, forward-looking D&T curriculum that captures the imagination of young people.
“We have had anecdotal feedback from school teachers that students think qualifications in food science and technology lead to jobs working in kitchens, so there is clearly a lot of work that needs to be done to address these misconceptions and inform young people of the wide variety of exciting opportunities available to them in the food and drink manufacturing industry.”
The FDF is involved in a number of careers initiatives in collaboration with industry partners such as the National Skills Academy for Food & Drink, as well as promoting apprenticeships and a new degree course.
Coleshill said: “Our sister association, the Scottish Food & Drink Federation, has also been going into schools, engaging with teachers on the curriculum and delivering subject lessons which are directly related to the curriculum but also to the industry.
“Better communication between business and schools is needed so that business can help teachers and careers advisors in schools to illustrate to students potential job opportunities and different pathways available to them while continuing to deliver the curriculum.”
Louise Davies, deputy chief executive of the Design & Technology Association, said: “The current National Curriculum review places serious question marks over the future of food technology teaching in schools.
“Without this we will not have the product developers, food technologists and food scientists that are so important for the industry and country. The Chilled Education project is making a significant contribution to the future of the subject in the classroom and brings the subject to life in a way that reinforces the case for the subject to retain its position