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Skills courses for food and drink SMEs go live

20 September 2010

A new suite of skills courses designed to boost innovation and growth in the food industry has been launched. Manchester Metropolitan University hosted The Growth & Innovation Event.

The courses are available to small to medium food and drink businesses in the north-west of England and are intended to assist with the development of leadership and management skills in order to drive profitability, productivity and growth.

The six courses available are Leadership and Motivation, Internal Quality Auditing, Food Science and Technology, Marketing Concepts for the Food Industry, New Product Development for the Food Industry and Supply Chain Management.

A further six courses, covering subjects such as lean and food ingredients, formulation and processing, are still being developed and opportunities exist for employers to be involved in consultation.

The development of the courses is part of an initiative called the Higher Level Skills Partnership (HLSP) which is being led by the North West Universities Association and is funded by the Northwest Regional Development Agency (NWDA). The partnership is working to connect employers in the region with higher and further education.

Clare Keegan, Project and Opportunities Manager at the National Skills Academy for Food and Drink Manufacturing, urged employers who wanted to see their business move to a higher level of productivity to look into signing up to the courses.

“Our aim is to help business leaders in the North West become more productive and efficient by delivering programmes that are specific, relevant and deliver business benefits,” said Clare. “We've been able to ensure we achieve this by working closely with food and drink employers. The result is that we have created a bite-sized approach to learning where managers, technicians and team leaders can choose from a menu of skills which will benefit their company.

“Delivery is flexible, with a mix of talks, tutorials, practical work and self-directed study in the workplace. Issues covered include business strategies to drive growth, product and process innovation, new technologies to develop existing and potential markets, environmental awareness and commercial food science and technology skills.”

Many companies, including Swizzels Matlow, Butt Foods, Goodlife Foods, Bury Black Puddings and Richard Whittaker have been involved in developing the courses to ensure they meet the needs of all types of food and drink manufacturers. Some of these companies will also be enrolling on to the courses.

Olesya Shipova, food and drink specialist advisor for the North West Universities Association, said: “The development and delivery of new demand-led higher level skills provision is the key activity being undertaken through HLSP. The demand for higher level skills from employers is the driver behind all provision developed through this project.

“Employers can be involved in the design, development and delivery of the provision either through cash investment or in-kind contribution, ensuring that the resulting provision exactly meets their needs and is delivered in a way suitable to them and their employees.
“There are five projects supported in the food and drink sector and there’s a good level of participation from employers. Projects cover a wide range of topics including food production and manufacturing, dairy technology, food chain management and technology, innovation and growth, and food waste and resource solutions.”

Lis Smith, director of skills and employment at the NWDA, said: “With an overall turnover of £9.5billion, the food and drink sector in the north west is the country’s largest food and drink producing region so it is vital that we support this and help it grow. This programme of courses has been developed in partnership with some of our leading food and drink manufacturers, their expertise will prove an invaluable opportunity for businesses who want to develop and diversify.”

Employers in the north west who would like to find out more information about the courses or be involved in the development of future ones should get in touch with Clare Keegan via email: and leave their contact details.

Photo caption L-R: Maria Ball, business development manager, Michael Jeffrey, faculty wide projects director, Haleh Moravej, senior lecturer (all from Manchester Metropolitan University), Clare Keegan, project manager for the National Skills Academy and Andrews Hollingsworth, principal lecturer and external liaison at Manchester Metropolitan University.

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