Leaving a tour of Mondelēz’s Bournville factory near Birmingham last week (March 13), Paterson told FoodManufacture.co.uk: “I am visiting plants in the UK and going abroad, as is [farming minister] George Eustice, who is very much involved in this at every opportunity.
“I would like to make public what a huge industry this is, how important it is to the economy, how much huge sums of money are being invested in innovative new products, machinery, techniques, exporting – it’s a really exciting industry for young people to get into.”
Flagship food manufacturers, such as Mondelēz, were doing a massive amount to offer career opportunities to all sectors of the workforce, including migrant workers and young people, said Paterson.
The Bournville plant
The Bournville plant operates a Taste of Work programme designed to inspire young people to work in the industry. It recently launched a new school leavers programme to woo recruits to complement its apprenticeship programme.
“They are really good at Bournville,” said Paterson. “They have links with over 30 schools, getting young people to come in. And they don’t just get the factory tour and get given a bag of chocolate bars at the end. They get given a proper task.
“They say, ‘right, we have got a problem with this machine, go away and come back with a solution’, so they actually come up with genuine solutions to help.”
Speaking the week after National Apprenticeship Week, Paterson praised the Bournville site’s work to encourage growth in numbers of food industry apprentices. “They have got 60 apprentices and are looking for more, because that’s the future.” He pointed to Mondelēz’s recent announcement of proposals to invest £75M in the factory.
Apprentices should be encouraged as much among migrant workers, who provided so much support for the food industry, as among young people, he said. “We would like that sector of the labour market to be aware of the opportunities in this industry. Everything I have said applies to them as much as to the people who are still at school.”
‘Next generation of manufacturing’
In a statement following the factory visit, Neil Chapman, UK chocolate manufacturing director, Mondelēz International, said: “We are committed to securing the next generation of manufacturing here.”
Paterson said: “I am hugely encouraged by the amount of innovation I’ve seen, from packaging design to food technology.
“I’m right behind Mondelēz’s drive to bring new talent to the wide choice of careers in the food industry. Apprenticeships don’t just kick start a career, they benefit employers and help to grow the economy.”
Paterson was unable to confirm how calls for government funding of a food and drink industrial partnership and employer ownership of skills plan, already present in other manufacturing sectors, were progressing.
The National Skills Academy for Food & Drink (NSAFD) expected government to confirm millions of pounds worth of funding at the end of last year, but no sign of the cash has been seen so far.
Meanwhile, Justine Fosh, chief executive NSAFD, will be taking part in the Food Manufacture Group’s Big Video Debate on plugging the skills gap at the Foodex trade event, at the National Exhibition Centre, near Birmingham at 11.45 on Tuesday March 25.
Other speakers include: Jon Poole, ceo of the Institute of Food Science & Technology, and Michael Rudge, process technologist with Bakkavor. Three other Big Video Debates include: Social media in food and drink manufacturing – threat or opportunity; Lessons learnt from the horsemeat crisis; and Lean and green manufacturing. More details are available here.
For the latest jobs in food and drink manufacturing, visit FoodManJobs.