‘Thousands of low-skill jobs will be unfilled’

By Nicholas Robinson

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Drink sector skills Uk food manufacturing England United kingdom Uk

Thousands of low-skill jobs within food and drink manufacturing are going unfilled
Thousands of low-skill jobs within food and drink manufacturing are going unfilled
Thousands of low-skilled food manufacturing jobs are likely to go unfilled as the industry focuses on filling high-skilled jobs vacancies, the industry has warned.

There is a large demand for workers with basic skills in UK food manufacturing, despite the large number of graduates seeking jobs.

Although the sector faces a skills shortage, most people working in it have a basic education. Only 22% are educated to degree level or above; 41% to A-level or above; and 37% to GCSE level, according to statistics from the food and drink sector skills council Improve.

Have to work hard

By 2020 the industry will need to fill 170,300 positions as workers retire or leave the industry, Food and Drink Federation (FDF) director of employment and skills Angela Coleshill said. Yet the sector has struggled to be seen as a career of first choice “and it is certainly true that we still have to work hard to attract job seekers to take on low-level positions”​, Coleshill added.

Figures from a recent Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development survey of adult skills showed the UK had the second largest demand (after Spain) for workers who had received only basic schooling.

The UK has a disconnection between job vacancies and those available to fill them, according to Peter Cheese, chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Personnel Development. This showed there were “structural fault lines running through the UK economy and labour market”​, he said in a report called Industry strategy and the future of skills policy, published earlier this year.

There were more low-skilled jobs in the UK than in other developed economies, Cheese said. There were “too many graduates and not enough graduate-level jobs”​, he added. Around 30% of UK workers believed they were overqualified.

Need to change

“Something does need to change to ensure our education and training system is able to develop young people in all the areas that our industry needs,​” said Bill Jermey, chief executive of the Food and Drink Training and Education Council, formerly the Meat Training Council. Government should implement a national careers service in schools and job centres that reflected the breadth of industries, sectors and roles in the UK jobs market, he added.

Meanwhile, the FDF highlighted opportunities for engineers in the sector at last month’s Big Bang Fair in Birmingham as part of its Taste Success campaign.

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