Food industry apprenticeships vital for growth

By Michael Stones

- Last updated on GMT

Apprenticeships are a key means of plugging the skills gap
Apprenticeships are a key means of plugging the skills gap

Related tags Vocational education

Apprentices are vital to plug the food industry skills gap, says the Food and Drink Federation, while the Confederation of British Industry has slammed the government's latest apprenticeship plans.

Manufacturers will need to replace 40% of their current workforce – about 170,000 employees – by 2020 due to employees entering retirement or leaving the industry, said Food and Drink (FDF) director of competitiveness Angela Coleshill.

A range of disciplines are needed but engineering and food science skills are in particularly short supply.

“While food and drink manufacturing provides entry points at all levels, apprenticeships are very much at the forefront of the sector’s efforts to create a highly skilled workforce to meet future need,”​ said Coleshill.

Food or drink industry apprenticeship

In 2012/2013, 49% of those who began a food or drink industry apprenticeship were aged 25 and over, partly due to the skill level needed to work in the sector.

“Food and drink manufacturing apprenticeships are highly skilled, longer-term, and taken up by more experienced individuals, when compared with other sectors,” ​said Coleshill.

During National Apprentice Week in March, the FDF pledged to increase the number of technical level 3 and above apprenticeships by 20% by 2017. The move is in line the government’s drive to create 3M additional apprenticeships and to treble the number in food, farming and agricultural technology.

Meanwhile, British industry – including manufacturing and construction – was facing a “skills emergency”​ that could “starve growth”, ​while the apprenticeship plans set out in the Budget were flawed, warned the Confederation of British Industry (CBI).

Skills gap

Manufacturers will need to replace 40% of their current workforce – about 170,000 employees – by 2020.

  • FDF 

More than two-thirds of businesses, employing more than 1M people, expect their demand for staff with higher level skills to grow in the years ahead, according to a survey conducted by the CBI and Pearson. But more than half (55%) feared they will not be able to access enough workers with the required skills.

Demand for highly skilled workers was particularly strong in sectors critical to the rebalancing of the economy – manufacturing (69%), engineering, science and hi-tech (74%) and construction (73%), revealed the poll.

Not deliver business-relevant training

While the apprenticeship levy for larger employers set out in the Budget, may fund more apprenticeships to meet the government’s target of 3M, it will not deliver the high-quality, business-relevant training needed, warned the CBI. As such, it will do little to help small or medium sized businesses.

Of apprenticeships starts in 2013/14, just 2% were higher apprenticeships, which lead to qualifications at a level equivalent to higher education, said the CBI. The government must accelerate reforms and ensure employers are in control when it comes to the design and delivery of apprenticeships to boost quality, it said.

CBI deputy director-general Katja Hall said: “The government has set out its stall to create a high-skilled economy, but firms are facing a skills emergency now, threatening to starve economic growth. Worryingly, it’s those high-growth, high-value sectors with the most potential which are the ones under most pressure. That includes: construction, manufacturing, science, engineering and technology.”

If you know a young person who could win The Food Manufacture Group's Young Talent of the Year award, click here​.

The CBI’s view

“The new​ [apprenticeship] levy announced in the budget may guarantee funding for more apprenticeships, but it’s unlikely to equate to higher quality or deliver the skills that industry needs. Levies on training already exist in the construction sector where two-thirds of employers are already reporting skills shortages.

“Employers have a critical role in upskilling the workforce, but part of the deal must be for real business control of apprenticeships to meet their needs on the ground. The best way to plug the skills gaps and provide quality training is to speed up existing apprenticeships reforms already underway and encourage smaller firms to get involved.”

  • Katja Hall, CBI

Related news

Show more

1 comment


Posted by Darryn Lewis,

Let's focus on the hear and now! Yes there is a skills shortage but that's not the governments fault! It the fault of the employers/companies for not focusing on the future and the future needs of their company...let's embrace this levy and the funding for apprenticeships and work together to create a solution to the problem instead of complaining about an issue the government are trying to fix!

Report abuse

Follow us

Featured Jobs

View more


View more