As the sector becomes more automated, the profile of technicians required is changing and they now need to possess a mixture of electrical, mechanical and IT skills, said Britvic group operations director Clive Hooper.
Other senior people in the sector have echoed Hooper’s concerns. Simon Baldry, md of Coca-Cola Enterprises (CCE) said: "Food and drink is the largest manufacturing base and we need to be able to attract the right talent and retain that talent in our business."
Through CCE’s five education centres located at its factories across the UK, it is endeavouring to make schoolchildren and other students aware of the opportunities that exist in manufacturing.
Britvic also visits schools local to its six plants across the country to give talks to teachers and children about manufacturing.
"Skills shortages are and will continue to be a problem," said Hooper. "Where manufacturing is going, it is becoming more automated so running and maintaining the equipment requires more skills."
Hooper said Britvic now sought technicians with a "balanced skill set", but admitted that the company sometimes struggled to fill these roles.
"We have problems getting good quality engineering technicians into the business, particularly around our southern sites," said Hooper. "So we have set up an apprentice scheme, which has been going for three years."
Britvic normally takes about six people onto its apprentice scheme each year, he said. The individuals are selected from within the business itself, as well as from local schools around its plants.
"The beauty is that they are not just coming out with mechanical or electrical skills, but both. As the business is moving towards multi-skilled technicians, this really works for us," added Hooper.