FDF reasserts importance of food and drink sector

Posted on 24 May 2011 by The Manufacturer

The food and drink sector is changing, and representatives are pushing for greater recognition of the need for investment in creating much needed high quality jobs for the future.

The UK Food Supply Chain report, authored by food and drink skills sector skills council Improve, in partnership with FDF and a number of other organisations, highlights how a workforce with the right skills will be critical to keeping the sector competitive against international manufacturers. Food and drink manufacturing will need at least 137,000 new employees over the next six years, many of which will be needed in scientific, engineering and management roles.

While the sector is generally seen as one predominately made up of low skilled workers, the consistent development of new technology has created the need for a new type of worker – one that is adept with hardware and software. The report reiterates that the industry relies on highly skilled people to operate new complex technologies and ensure the machinery used to produce our food operates effectively and efficiently.

Food and drink is the country’s biggest manufacturing sector in terms of turnover, Gross Value Added and employment. It generates a significant 20% of turnover for the food chain, yet its employees account for only 10% of the total number of employees, which demonstrates that food and drink manufacturing is highly productive.

Whilst food and drink manufacturing is continuously growing, its future sustainability is highly dependent on the skills of its current workforce and crucially, its ability to attract the right talent for the future. With 20% of vacancies in the UK remaining hard to fill, support for promotion of the sector as a ‘career of choice’ is the key to continued future growth.

Angela Coleshill, FDF’s Director of Competitiveness talked about the Federation’s efforts to promote the sector: “FDF members are taking collective action to ensure we can attract highly talented young people into the food and drink manufacturing sector.”

“In partnership with Improve and Universities, FDF is seeking to become directly involved in the implementation of food and drink degree courses by offering undergraduates work placements and internships,” she added.

She also confirmed that apprenticeships would be a key mechanism for the industry to attract talent for the future.