The FDF was responding to comments made by a University of Warwick professor who said people could be put off careers that used science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) because of low pay.
The food and drink industry was not an exception to this, Dr Thijs van Rens, associate professor in the University of Warwick’s department of economics told FoodManufacture.co.uk.
The FDF said it was unfair to draw any conclusions of the UK food and drink manufacturing sector from the research as it was based on US data and took into account all STEM skills not just food and drink production.
“In the UK, food and drink companies know that to attract a skilled workforce, they have to pay competitive salaries and offer clear opportunities for progression, and they do,” the FDF’s competitiveness policy manager Selga Speakman-Havard said.
“For instance, starting salaries for graduate food engineers are between £24-27,000 with the possibility to rise to £55-75,000 for engineering directors.”
The FDF continues to work to promote the “well-paid” and “highly skilled” roles in the industry by working closely with educators and higher education bodies to build awareness of them, Speakman-Havard added.
Van Rens confirmed that low wages were to blame for the STEM skills gap in the US, not the UK.
Not happy with wages
But, more than half (56%) of respondents to a FoodManufacture.co.uk survey said their pay did not reflect the skills they own.
One reader, Jessica, said despite being a qualified food technologist she worked as a finance assistant because the pay was better.
Another reader known only as John said: “I fully agree with the findings of this study. Wages in industry, food and others, do not reflect the qualification if you have a science degree. Students naturally move towards more rewarding sectors.”