Government and big brands join food skills battle

By Rod Addy

- Last updated on GMT

Tesco was among the brands championing the hunt for top food talent at a government meeting today
Tesco was among the brands championing the hunt for top food talent at a government meeting today

Related tags Young people Sheffield hallam university Sheffield

Tesco, Mars and Warburtons were among the big food brands meeting government yesterday (September 11) at Downing Street to discuss how to find the industry’s future leaders.

Bosses of these and other big firms including 2 Sisters Food Group, Sainsbury and Premier Foods met prime minister David Cameron and environment secretary Elizabeth Truss.

Industry has estimated the sector needs 170,000 new recruits by 2020 to meet growing demand as it expands. Today’s discussions highlighted that science and engineering qualifications were vital in ensuring young people have the right skills to find jobs.

Food engineering

The event coincided with the start of the first ever food engineering degree course at Sheffield Hallam University, supported by firms including McCain Foods, Nestlé UK and Mondelēz International.

“I want to make sure young people know what opportunities are out there for them, so they can develop the skills they need to get themselves into good jobs and earn a living,”​ said Cameron.

“It is part of the government’s long-term economic plan to make sure the next generation can achieve their full potential and secure a better and brighter future for themselves and for Britain.

“We have already seen record drops in youth unemployment – and I am grateful for those involved with schemes like Feeding Britain’s Future which have provided opportunities for training, work experience and apprenticeships and led to real career progression for young people.”

‘Powerhouse of our economy’

Truss added: “Food and drink is a powerhouse of our economy and our biggest manufacturing sector – but there is still huge potential for growth. We are working hard in government to create more opportunities for quality home grown British produce both here and abroad.

“Accessing new markets and developing the best possible technologies are key to us becoming the best in the world at food and farming.

“I was very encouraged to hear from industry about all it is doing to attract young talent from our schools, colleges and universities into food and farming to help create a skilled workforce for the future.”​ 

The government demonstrated its support for the food and drink sector by highlighting that it was:

  • helping support and expand the role of science and engineering in the sector, as well as trying to facilitate the development of new technology through the Agri-tech Strategy​;
  • working with industry to help create new career pathways including apprenticeships and degree courses to make sure young people have the right skills to find work;
  • supporting the Feeding Britain’s Future campaign which offers practical advice and skills to over 40,000 unemployed young people and has launched workshops in schools to educate children about career prospects in the food sector;
  • promoting the Your Life Campaign to change perceptions of 14 to 16 year-olds about studying maths and physics.

“Feeding Britain’s Future will provide another 15,000 employability workshops this year, a real testament to the fantastic collaboration show by the UK’s food and grocery industry,” ​said Joanne Denney-Finch, ceo of IGD, organiser of the Feeding Britain’s Future campaign.

“This is exactly what Feeding Britain’s Future is all about, bringing together organisations throughout the supply chain all around the UK to invest in the future of young people and the workforce of the next generation.”

Sheffield Hallam’s new Masters in engineering course​ has been designed with industry for industry to create mechanical engineers ready for employment with the skills most sought after by businesses.

For comprehensive details on the latest jobs in food and drink manufacturing, visit FoodManJobs​.

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