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Mind the skills gap!

04 April 2016

The National Skills Academy for Food and Drink (NSAFD) has warned that one-third of the 400,000 strong workforce in the sector will retire by 2020, including skilled managers and engineers. This generational time bomb’ can only be stopped if manufacturers increase the number of apprenticeships, it warns. 

Justine Fosh, chief executive of NSAFD, said it was the duty of leading manufacturers to showcase careers in the industry during events like the National Apprenticeship Week, which took place last month. “Sadly, there remain many misconceptions about the variety of available roles in food and drink and a lack of information about the industry’s career progression opportunities,” said Fosh. 

“Young people have an outdated image of the industry and don’t see it as one of the most technologically advanced sectors in the UK. In reality, apprenticeships offer the chance to become one of the next generation of Nestle chocolatiers, to be part of the teams creating iconic pet foods or to develop new products for Heineken or Haribo.” 

The NSAFD last month launched jobs website Brands like 2 Sisters Food Group, McCain, Tulip, Heineken and Nestle are currently advertising a broad spectrum of apprenticeships and graduate opportunities on the site. 

Fosh added: “For us, the message is clear, we have jobs for young people. We have good jobs. We simply need the talent. “Currently, as a sector, at best we are ignored, at worst we are not considered to be an industry of choice. This has to change. The 2020 deadline we face is a very real one, and if we don’t encourage the next generation into our industry the skills gap in food and drink could have a very real impact on the economy.”

Bakkavor plans to recruit 45 new apprentices in 2016 at its sites across the UK from Hampshire to Lincolnshire. 

The company runs two apprentice schemes – the Advanced Apprenticeship scheme, which is a one year course tailored for school leavers; and the Higher Apprentice Scheme which is aimed at those who often have A-Level qualifications. The Higher Apprentice is the equivalent to a Foundation Degree with the opportunity to convert to a full degree at the end of the apprenticeship. 

Pippa Greenslade, Group HR director said, “Bakkavor‘s apprenticeship schemes are a fantastic way to give young people a taste of the food industry and gain invaluable experience. From day one, apprentices get real responsibility and hands-on experience in the food manufacturing sector. Apprenticeships make good business sense and provide a great way of supporting young talent and building much needed future skills for the food industry. We are delighted to be doubling our intake.”

Weetabix Food Company announced recently launched a new Engineering and Manufacturing Apprenticeship scheme at Tresham College of Further and Higher Education, in Northampton. The scheme will take on a total of four individuals in 2016, including two apprentices in manufacturing and two in engineering, with plans to take eight per year from 2017. 

Alex Cosgrove, head of UK manufacturing for Weetabix, said: “We’re really excited about the new apprentice programme. Manufacturing is what this country was built and measured on. This is particularly true in Northamptonshire, which remains one of the biggest innovation hubs for food manufacturing, and at Weetabix, we are passionate about developing our people to be the best they can be because our people really make the difference. 

“Tresham College is a big part of our apprenticeship drive and the programme will help us grow new and existing talent within our organisation to ensure we will house the experts and leaders of the future.”

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