Foodex 2014

Foodex skills debate highlights the challenge

By Michael Stones

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Food industry Food and drink

A more co-ordinated approach to attracting youngsters into food and drink manufacturing, and greater efforts by firms to promote the benefits of working in the sector were two of the key themes to emerge from the Big Video Debate on ‘Plugging the skills gap’ at Foodex.

This video – capturing the highlights of the debate – features key contributions from the panellists who specialise in food industry skills training, plus a young person’s perspective from a student, currently on work placement with chilled food manufacturer Bakkavor.

Jon Poole, ceo of the Institute of Food Science & Technology, urged the food industry to adopt a more unified approach to recruitment. “We need to have a lot of things happening in a unified and collaborative way,” ​said Poole.

‘Almost in competition, rather than all pulling together’

“What I see at the moment is a lot of good things happening – almost in competition, rather than all pulling together towards the same end.”

Justine Fosh, ceo for the National Skills Academy for Food and Drink and food and drink sector skills council Improve, said some firms should step up their appeal to youngsters. “Many companies need to make more of a story – many have got fantastic training programmes and opportunities,”​ said Fosh.

“Being able to put those forward in a way that is inspiring to young people is really important.”

Derek Williams, standards and quality director with food industry qualifications body FDQ, said the skills gap had revealed the difference in how the educators and the employers view the skills challenge.

‘Too much emphasis on the supply of skills’

“I agree with the Chartered Institute of Personnel Development’s recent report. There has been far too much emphasis on the supply of skills rather than the demand for skills,”​ said Williams.

Michael Rudge, process technologist with Bakkavor, warned food and drink manufacturers had a great deal more work to do in making young people aware of the sector. “If you ask most 16-year olds or those doing A-Levels, they wouldn’t know about the food industry or that there were reliable jobs in the sector,”​ said Rudge.

“Food and drink firms need to reach out more effectively to young people.”

Read more about the skills debate – including why initiatives designed to cut the skills gap are too “fragmented”​ – here​.

The Big Video Debate on ‘Plugging the skills gap’ – organised by the Food Manufacture Group – took place at the Foodex show at the National Exhibition Centre, near Birmingham on Tuesday March 25.

Meanwhile, don’t miss our video interview filmed at the show with former cabinet minister Michael Portillo who warned food and drink manufacturers should prepare for “war” ​on sugar and salt.

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