Skills proposals welcomed, but more needed, says trade body

By Gwen Ridler

- Last updated on GMT

New Government proposals could see employers more involved in skills provision
New Government proposals could see employers more involved in skills provision

Related tags Training & recruitment

Food industry representatives have welcomed Government proposals for more employer involvement in developing vital skills but have claimed they do not address all the sector’s concerns.

The Skills for Jobs white paper​ sets out reforms to post-16 technical education and training to support people to develop the skills needed to get good jobs and improve national productivity.

Under the proposals, measures would be made to simplify and reform funding and accountability for learning providers and give employers a greater say in the development of skills.

Food and Drink Federation (FDF) education and skills policy manager Mark Corbett welcomed the publication of the white paper, as well as the focus on employers taking a leading role in shaping skills provision.

Fall in apprenticeships

He added: “It is encouraging that the Government has acknowledged the need to address the fall in Apprenticeships.

“The additional support for SMEs, and a matching service, will help with the take-up of the levy transfer, but it doesn’t address the root cause of businesses not being able to use their levy due to inflexibilities in the system.”

While the FDF supported the announcement that eligible adults could access a level 3 qualification for free, Corbett was disappointed that there were currently no options available for food and drink manufacturing.

“Food and drink businesses have been recruiting throughout the pandemic and continue to offer excellent career opportunities to people who want to retrain,”​ he continued.  

Seeking clarity

“We seek urgent clarity on how the Government will ensure that this offer adapts to our sector’s current and future priorities.”

There have been consistent calls for food and drink roles to be more heavily advertised to potential apprentices and school leavers. However, the past year had made it more difficult for food and drink processors to support these roles, said Corbett.

Factories forced to turn away non-essential workers due to regional and national lockdowns has meant Apprentices have missed on-the-job training, while the closure of colleges hampered classroom teaching sessions.

Specialist qualifications awarding body FDQ chief executive Terry Fennell argued that staff shortages and a slowdown in the take-up of apprenticeships had made it harder to maintain food standards.

In October last year, Wales’s largest meat processor Kepak signed up to the Welsh government’s Apprenticeship Programme to boost workforce skills,​ aiming to bring 100 existing staff on board the scheme within a year.

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