New blood – UK food industry creates 50,000 apprentices

Posted on 14 Mar 2013 by Tim Brown

A landmark 50,000 new Apprenticeships have been created across the UK food supply chain over the past 18 months following a major skills push by businesses.

Apprenticeship growth has been evident across all parts of the food supply chain – including a near trebling of the numbers in the food manufacturing sector.

David Heath, Minister of State for Agriculture and Food, commended the achievement saying: “The UK’s food and agriculture sector is our biggest employer providing jobs for 3.7 million people and contributing over £96 billion to our economy. I want to see this sector grow and become more globally competitive, creating more job opportunities for young people.”

Justine Fosh, chief executive of Improve, the skills body for food manufacturing,  said the increase in apprenticeships in food manufacturing represented a “concerted response” to the challenge of skills. She said the food industry needed to recruit 137,000 new staff by 2020 to replace experienced workers that are nearing retirement.

“Apprenticeships are now a proven tool in attracting and nurturing the next generation of food workers as well as supporting existing workers to respond to the twin challenge of automation and new technology,” said Ms Fosh.

Fosh added that food manufacturers are increasingly seeing the benefit of working together to address skills and recruitment issues.

The Apprenticeship drive was spurred by a 2011 report coordinated by Improve which identified a range of common skills challenges shared by businesses across the UK’s farming, food manufacturing, food distribution, food retail and food hospitality sectors.

‘The Food Supply Chain’ report, a collaboration between businesses, trade organisations, industry groups and skills bodies, highlighted the need to update the skills and job knowledge of current staff and make working in food businesses more attractive to young people as many workers are now nearing retirement.

Speaking during Apprenticeship Week (March 11-15) Improve chief executive Justine Fosh said: “Working together, we set a shared target of creating 50,000 new Apprenticeships across the food supply chain and I’m delighted to say that the latest figures from all relevant skills bodies shows we’ve now surpassed that.

“This is an important step in improving the image of the industry and demonstrating to young people that the food sector offers a great variety of career opportunities and the chance to progress in a dynamic, modern industry that plays a vital role in the country’s economy.”