The FDF said there was no “detailed evidence” to suggest graduate or apprenticeship opportunities were being reduced.
The comment followed news that graduate opportunities offered by the UK’s biggest employers had fallen by 8% this year. An annual survey from the Association of Graduate Recruiters (AGR) found that 208 companies reported 19,732 graduate places to fill, compared with 21,427 last year.
Vacancies in engineering and retail decreased the most, falling 14% and 16% respectively.
The AGR said that more than 10,000 apprenticeships were on offer within the surveyed companies this year – a rise of 13% on last year. However, the combined number of graduate vacancies and apprenticeships was still down 3% on 2015.
‘Labour market for young people’
AGR chief executive Stephen Isherwood said: “The labour market for young people is shrinking for the first time since the financial crisis.
“But the composition of the market is also changing as employers invest more in school leaver programmes and apprenticeships.”
The FDF said plenty of opportunities for graduates were available in the food and drink manufacturing sector.
“Demand for graduates in food and drink manufacturing remains high, particularly for technical and engineering roles,” an FDF spokesman told FoodManufacture.co.uk.
“Our members will be reviewing the need for a balance between the employment of graduates and apprentices given the apprenticeship levy. But, at this point, we have no detailed evidence on the impact on the volume of graduate demand.”
Brexit worried recruiters
Both the AGR and the FDF agreed Brexit worried recruiters. “Brexit remains a concern with much uncertainty on future access to EU nationals,” said the FDF.
“We anticipate our skills gap will not be helped by the UK exit from the EU, making it even more important that we build our pipeline of talent from our routes into the sector.”
Meanwhile, fast food company KFC has announced a new degree apprenticeship programme for staff aged 16 to 19.
The scheme, run in partnership with De Montfort University Leicester, will allow full-time staff to spend two days a month studying for an undergraduate degree.
Four years of study, entirely funded by KFC and the government, will result in an undergraduate degree in marketing, business management or finance.
For the latest vacancies in food and drink manufacturing, visit FoodManJobs.
AGR graduate vacancies – at a glance
• Graduate opportunities fall by 8%
• Apprenticeships rise by 13%
• Graduate vacancies and apprenticeships fall by 3%