A report commissioned by the National Skills Academy for Food & Drink (NSAFD), ahead of National Apprenticeship week (4–8 March) looked at the specific skills issues across the supply chain and examined the remaining challenges and barriers preventing more of the industry undertaking apprenticeships.
It found that, while Government reforms into the implementation and funding for apprenticeships had been well received across the food and drink industry, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) were being left behind in the system.
NSAFD chief executive Justine Fosh said the consensus was that non-levy paying companies were missing out on opportunities.
“Government reforms have sought to put control of the system – including the means to pay for apprenticeships – in the hands of employers. However, this is not the case for SMEs,” Fosh explained.
“SMEs do not pay the levy and so don’t have their ‘own’ funding pots; they are reliant on providers who have been successful in gaining special contracts to work with them.”
Since this limited pool of training providers was not always capable of providing apprenticeships for food businesses, SMEs were often left unable to access the Government’s new standards under the scheme.
Using the results of the report, the NSFAD is now working on behalf of the Skills Working Group to convene a specialist group to look at how provision can better serve the needs of the food supply chain.
Fosh added: “We already know what great provision looks like, as we have got examples of industry-approved providers who are already operating with smaller businesses.
“Through the forum, however, we aim to develop some tangible and specific solutions to further improving the quality and availability of apprenticeships for all.”