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More help for women in industry

01 April 2010

Women working in the food and drink industry are being offered access to subsidised training in a bid to give them better access to higher paid, higher skilled careers

Improve, the food and drink sector skills council, and the National Skills Academy for Food and Drink Manufacturing have secured funding to re-launch the Women and Work programme which was first made available to food and drink companies in 2006.

The new expanded programme will offer grants of £650 which can be used to help fund a broad range of training, qualifications, short courses and coaching. Activity funded under the scheme is divided into three strands:

Women in Industry: Supporting access and retention of women in male-dominated sectors through careers guidance, vocational qualifications, and training or re-training in specific skills where there is an identified need;

Women in the Lead: Supporting career progression into supervisory and line-management roles through training in specific techniques such as supervision, negotiation, risk management and project management;

Women in Business: Supporting increased earning potential for women through a range of mentoring learning and training aimed at accessing middle and higher management positions.

Liz Pattison, head of Skills Solutions at the National Skills Academy for Food and Drink Manufacturing, said: “The last Women and Work scheme was focused very specifically on subsidised management training. With our on-going assessment of the industry’s skills needs and the development of the National Skills Academy provider network, we are now in a position to take a more holistic approach to addressing the broader issues women face with employment in food and drink through a more flexible range of solutions.

“Women make up just a third of the workforce in the food and drink industry, and that figure is falling. Sectors such as dairy, oils and fats, and milling and starches are particularly dominated by men, and around a quarter of all women employed in food and drink work part-time compared to just four per cent of men, which impacts on progression into supervisory and management positions.

“There is a real need to address this massive gender imbalance and unlock the talent women have for the future good of the industry. There are skills gaps and shortages in every sector of food and drink, and the industry needs to recruit around 60,000 extra people to management, professional and technical positions by 2017.
 
“Increasing entry and retention of women at all levels, improving opportunities for career progression and increasing earning potential can play a vital role in addressing these needs, and the Women and Work initiative has been developed to provide a solution which will reach out to women right across the industry.”

Training under the initiative will be funded through a matched contribution arrangement. Training programmes will have to cost a minimum of £750 to be eligible for the subsidy, with employers asked to fund the difference. In addition, employers will be required to make a contribution in kind – time, travel, accommodation, facilities and other resources – of £900 per trainee.

Improve chief executive Jack Matthews said employers can expect such funding arrangements to become the norm for work-based and vocational training. “There has been a fundamental shift away from the policy of ring-fencing funding for pre-determined, fixed programmes as happened under the Train to Gain scheme, for example,” he said.
 
“This is actually a better arrangement for employers. Pre-packaged programmes, although free, do not always deliver the skills employers really need. Now Improve and the National Skills Academy are in a position to listen to what employers want and then secure partial funding which might not have been available previously.”


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