UK employment figures don’t dent food vacancies

By Nicholas Robinson

- Last updated on GMT

More food manufacturing jobs were created in the last half of 2013 than were lost
More food manufacturing jobs were created in the last half of 2013 than were lost

Related tags Drink sector Drink manufacturing Sheffield hallam university Apprenticeship Industry Angela coleshill

The skills gap in the food and drink manufacturing sector has not shrunk, despite the latest government statistics showing that UK unemployment overall has fallen.

Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures released earlier this month showed national unemployment had fallen to 7.1%.

But, despite this, the food and drink sector still needed to fill 170,300 vacancies by 2020, said FDF director of employment and skills Angela Coleshill, “Our sector urgently needs to secure a pipeline of talent to support our shared vision with [the] government of delivering 20% growth by 2020,”​ she said.

Secure pipeline

“Developing the skills of the current workforce is central to maintaining our competitiveness, raising productivity and responding to global demands of producing more from less with less impact.”

A number of initiatives were in place to ensure the sector was a “career destination of choice”​, said Coleshill. Key to this was changing people’s perception of the industry by convincing them that there were “rewarding career opportunities on offer”.

The MEng Food Engineering degree set up in partnership with the National Skills Academy for Food & Drink and Sheffield Hallam University would start in September, said Coleshill.

Apprenticeship reform

At the same time, the industry was working with the government to lead apprenticeship reform, she added. Apprenticeships were now recognised by government as crucial in creating employment and filling skills shortages.

Data from vocational accreditation body City and Guilds has shown that 43% of apprentices in manufacturing and engineering eventually made it to the boardrooms of companies.

“Either going to university or choosing an apprenticeship needs to become the new norm for school and college leavers,”​ said education and skills minister Matthew Hancock.

Former Labour minister Frank Field also supported Hancock’s view, calling for more support for apprenticeships. “We need to encourage more young people to think hard about the best ways of achieving their goals in life,”​ he said.

Range of skills required

According to Coleshill, the food and drink sector was planning to provide more support to apprenticeships.

She said a new apprenticeship standard for food and drink maintenance engineers was due to be rolled out by the end of the year.

But Coleshill cautioned that a range of skills was required. “We need to attract the best talent; it is important that we have a range of skilled people, whether that be school leavers, graduates or apprentices.”

Meanwhile, figures from, showed 3,473 jobs were announced in UK food and drink manufacturing in the second half of 2013, while 3,255 were cut. Click here​ for more details.

To view more than 1,300 jobs in the food and drink manufacturing industry, visit Food Manufacture​’s job website, FoodManJobs​.

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