Skills ambrosia

Posted on 16 Jun 2010 by The Manufacturer

Food and drink manufacturers in the North-West have cause for greater confidence in the future of the industry after the opening of a new £2.7 training centre, the Eden International Dairy Academy.

Billed as the most state-of-the-art facility of its kind in Europe was officially opened on Thursday 10 June at Reaseheath College in Cheshire. The new institution is the fruit of collaboration between the dairy industry, the National Skills Academy for Food and Drink Manufacturing and the college itself. It aims to make the UK a world leader on dairy training and has been integral in the development of a new foundation degree in Dairy Technology.

Earlier this year the UKCES National Skills Audit for England identified a lack of food technicians and skilled food workers. This initiative which aims to raise the skills bar for dairy production managers will help to bridge that gap, upskilling the existing work force and hopefully promoting the image of the UKs strongest manufacturing sector as a career destination.

Part funded through a grant from the North West Development Agency, the Eden International Dairy Academy has fully engaged with industry leaders from dairy processing and manufacturing to ensure that the training offered to students is in tune with the real requirements of businesses in the sector.

Justine Fosh, director of skills solutions at the National Skills Academy for Food and Drink Manufacturing, said “Virtually all of the big names in the UK dairy industry – Arla, First Milk, Dairy Crest, Robert Wiseman, Müller, Milk Link and trade bodies Dairy UK and the Society of Dairy Technology – have worked together with us and Reaseheath College on this project. They have conceived, funded, equipped and built the training centre, and have already seen the success of the foundation degree they played a key role in developing.

“Out of the 27 employees enrolled on the Foundation Degree last September, half were taken on by companies specifically to train as production managers, so the scheme has already seen jobs being created. This autumn’s intake is close to being fully subscribed, and with this fantastic training centre now open, employers can expect to see even more impressive results.”

Jens Termansen, supply chain development director at Arla, was a key figure in conceptualising Project Eden which is based on a Danish training model. “This all came about because the dairy industry in the UK was facing serious skills shortages in some critical areas – for example, a severe shortage of qualified dairy technologists,” he said. “This was something everyone in the industry was aware of and agreed on.

The Eden Academy is the first part of a £6.4 million overhaul of Reaseheath College’s food industry training centre. Dave Kynaston, the college’s vice principal, said: “Reaseheath College is proud to be working with so many important partners in this project and to share the vision and passion which all hold for the food manufacturing industry. There is no doubt that this academy will be recognised as one of the best facilities in the world. Already you won’t find better facilities anywhere else in the UK. This is just the start of the journey.”