After winning a vote of confidence from the Government, the food and drink industry is now able to part-fund a range of skills programmes for the sector.
The £1.7m funding will go towards programmes that will be run to support competitiveness, growth and jobs in the food and drink manufacturing sector.
The financial support from the Government is on a 50% basis; where investment is made, businesses and manufacturers are obliged to match the investment in terms of cash, time and in-kind support. It has been described as a milestone-based investment plan for the skills needed in the food and drink sector.
There are three main parts to the new initiative.
- Tasty Graduates. This includes the building of a new Centre of Excellence in Food Production Engineering and the introduction of an industry specific degree qualification.
- The Blueprint for Excellence is also being launched – food manufacturers will now be required to produce to an industry-wide “gold standard” for the standards and competencies expected of effective workers in specific food industry jobs.
- Tasty Jobs. This scheme will enable 600 people who are out of work to partake in pre-employment training programmes. These are designed to ensure that those currently unemployed are not just work-ready but ready to work in the food and drink sector.
“At a time of necessary financial restraint, the case for taxpayer investment in food manufacturing skills against investment in other sectors had to be strong. Payback to the economy and on-going commitment of employers is evident,” commented Jack Matthews, chief executive of Improve, the skills council for the UK food and drink sector.
Angela Coleshill, The Food & Drink Federation’s director of competitiveness said: “With over a third of the workforce due to retire in the next 5 years and the current shortage of technicians and engineers, attracting talent and up skilling our existing workforce will be vital to ensure we have the technicians, managers and leaders of the future.”
Ms Coleshill said that the FDF is working hard to shed the outdated image of the food and drink manufacturing sector, and is ready to launch a careers campaign: ‘Taste Success – A Future in Food’ in order to boost the image of the sector.
“[We hope to show] young people that we are leading the way in regards to scientific and technological innovation, research and development; and FDF’s Graduate Ambition will see us working with universities to develop a new degree course to equip graduates with the skills that the food and drink industry requires,” she added.