Industry must take lead in bridging skills gap

By Nicholas Robinson

- Last updated on GMT

Fosh: the government should set training policy
Fosh: the government should set training policy

Related tags Food manufacture Nottingham trent university

Manufacturers will have to rely on their own resources to bridge the skills gap they face, rather than waiting for the government to take the lead, the head of the National Skills Academy (NSA) for food and drink has warned.

Government initiatives to crank up the nation’s skills fell short of what was needed last year after a number of key civil servants were made redundant, said Justine Fosh, chief executive of the NSA for food and drink.

The changes followed government reforms in the area in the wake of a report by the Dragons’ Den entrepreneur Doug Richard. This called on employers to design, fund and take complete ownership of their apprenticeships, Fosh told delegates at the Food Manufacture Group’s Business Leaders’ Forum, which was held at the offices of host sponsor DWF in London last month.

Vital responsibility

However, transferring this responsibility from the state to the private sector would prove costly and could take up to two years to achieve, she said. It would also distract the attention of industry leaders away from the vital day-to-day responsibility of running their businesses, she added.

While many food firms wanted to be involved in the design of apprenticeships and training, they felt it was government's role to co-ordinate cross-industry curriculum policy, claimed Fosh.

However, industry bosses agreed with the findings in Richard’s report that the limited central funding available from government for such schemes should be paid directly to businesses, she added.


Fosh also regretted the delays in implementing the necessary changes to skills training. “The timescale for businesses to get any money is going back and back and bac – estimates are around 2019,”​ she claimed.

Despite food manufacture not being viewed by government as a key sector, Fosh had secured agreement with ministers to develop an industry partnership with the sector. “This will hopefully lead to the opportunity to promote​ [food manufacture] to the premier league of sectors engaged with government and benefit from greater proportionate support.”

Meanwhile, Nottingham Trent University has announced that it is to launch a new Masters course in food management later this year.

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