‘Help us tackle youth unemployment’, urges minister

By Lorraine Mullaney

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Young people Industry

Hoban: ‘A critical issue for our country’
Hoban: ‘A critical issue for our country’
A government minister has urged food manufacturers to help tackle youth unemployment by signing up to grocery think tank IGD’s Feeding Britain’s Future (FBF) initiative.

“It’s a critical issue for our country and it makes sound business sense,”​ said Mark Hoban, employment minister at the Department for Work and Pensions at this week’s (June 12) IGD Skills Summit in London.

The FBF initiative aims to encourage sectors of the food and drink industry to work together to provide pre-employment training to unemployed 16- to 24-year-olds during Skills for Work month in September.

The aim is to give young people the skills and confidence they need to make the most of their next job opportunity and inform them of the opportunities offered by the industry.

Highlighting the 1M unemployed under 25s in Britain, Joanne Denney-Finch, chief executive of the IGD, said: “To revive our economy, we need to use the talent at our disposal. Otherwise we are at risk of losing an entire generation.”

Despite offering good financial compensation and job progression, there is wide recognition that food and drink manufacturers have an image problem, which is a barrier to recruitment that the IGD plans to break down.

IGD’s Leading Edge survey revealed that four out of five employees didn’t intend to work in the food industry at the start of their career. But once they join, they tend to stay.

‘Dramatic impact’

Denney-Finch said: “If food manufacturers open their doors and show young people how the industry really is, it has a dramatic impact.”

As part of last year’s FBF, Greencore Group invited 600 young people to its manufacturing sites across the UK and ran workshops to introduce them to the workings of the food industry. This September it plans to invite 900.

Greencore’s group communications manager, Michael Evans, said: “One of the key turning points for most people is to see what really happens inside the industry – the range of roles and opportunities that are available. You can come in at a junior level and quickly work your way up.”

In addition to filling the skills gap, getting involved with FBF also gives food manufacturers a deeper understanding of their local community, builds their image, reputation and product recognition.

Evans said: “It’s good for us as an own-label manufacturer because it lets people know what that factory around their corner actually does. They see real people that make real products and the processes involved.

‘We have a responsibility’

“We operate in challenged communities where we can be the main local employer so we have a role to play in supporting these communities. We have a responsibility to do it for the right reasons.”

Dairy Crest also participated in the initiative last year. In addition to food manufacturing, the firm wants to encourage more young people to become involved in agriculture claiming there’s a shortfall of 60,000 people if farming is to remain sustainable in the UK.

The firm’s head of corporate responsibility, John O’Maoileoin, said: “A lot of the schemes concentrate on unemployed young people in cities but rural communities get forgotten.

“When they come to our sites they meet people who might not have been strong academically at school and see them in senior positions so they realise that if you work really hard and you’re really committed you’ll get on in this industry.

“We would like to see more food manufacturers get involved because it’s an opportunity to showcase the vast array of jobs in food manufacturing. It’s seen as a dead end job but there are so many talented people in our industry.”

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