Business Leaders' Forum

Industry skills shortage set to continue as workforce ages

By Rick Pendrous

- Last updated on GMT

Munday said there was a lot more the industry could do to attract talent
Munday said there was a lot more the industry could do to attract talent

Related tags Young people Drink manufacturing sector Food and drink

The struggle to attract young people into Britain’s food and drink manufacturing sector looks set to continue, despite manufacturers’ best efforts to raise the sector’s profile against a torrent of adverse publicity in the press and on TV.

Speaking to last month’s Business Leaders’ Forum in London, Liz Pattison, head of skills solutions at the National Academy for Food and Drink, described the "uncertainty"​ surrounding the government’s education and skills agenda.

“There is quite a lot going on in terms of reform of the qualifications system and funding of industrial partnerships,​” said Pattison, highlighting that the skills minister Matthew Hancock was now recognising the importance of the food and drink sector.

Big pressure

“There is still big pressure to get more young people into the sector with an ageing workforce,​” she said.

“It’s not just about the training and skills of young people but also raising the awareness that we exist and we are a good sector to choose to work in rather than some of the other industries.”

She referred in particular to the huge investment the food and drink sector has made as a whole over the past 12 months in technician, engineering and science qualifications at all levels. “But there is still a little unknown and there are possibly going to be three or four different skills systems operating at the same time this year, while some are ending and new ones are coming in.”

Not doing as well as we should

Helen Munday, director for scientific and regulatory affairs for Coca-Cola North West Europe and Nordics, added: “As an industry there is still a lot more we could do to make sure that the really good people have their hearts and minds attracted to this industry, which I don’t think we are doing as well as we should do.”

Chris Thomas, chief executive for pork processor Tulip, spoke of the investment his company had made over the past few years in “growing its own talent”​. He said: “We have trained more butchers in the UK than anybody else and we are taking in more food graduates now than ever before.”

The Food Manufacture Group is staging a free-to-attend Big Video Debate on Plugging the skills gap at 11.15am on Tuesday March 25 at the Foodex trade event, at the National Exhibition Centre, Birmingham. Email zvpunry.fgbarf@jeoz.pbz​ for more details. 

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