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Multimillion pound jackpot for food, drink training

02 November 2010

Food and drink employers looking to drive up the skills of their workforce can be met halfway in the funding stakes thanks to a successful multi-million pound bid by Improve

Improve, the food and drink sector skills council, has been successful in securing a project worth 4.2m based on funding 50% of the cost of training employees in the food and drink industry. Employers will match the remaining 50%.

The Joint Investment Programme operated by the skills funding agency, is designed to bring together private and public investment into 50-50 match-funded plans to support training and skills development in areas key to economic recovery and future growth. Improve’s successful bid for the programme secures ringfenced funding for learner places and allows Improve to buy the skills employers want and use its own training providers.

Food and drink employers who want to take advantage of the matched funding for employee training are being urged to get in touch with Improve’s sister organisation the National Skills Academy for Food and Drink Manufacturing which will be responsible for delivery.

Liz Pattison, head of skills solutions for Improve and the National Skills Academy for Food and Drink Manufacturing, said: “This is a unique opportunity for employers to get financial support for key areas of strategically important business activity and is the first step to getting greater employer control of public funding for skills.

“The programme is designed to support employers in moving into new markets and taking up new technologies. It provides a mechanism for them to develop and deliver programmes of training where workforce development is a key step in taking advantage of those new market opportunities and of new technologies.

“Research by Improve shows the UK food and drink industry needs to fill around 45,000 higher level skill or professional occupations by 2017 and employers have identified that it is technical, practical and job-specific skills which need to be improved most in the next two to three years.”

Liz added: “This ‘half-and-half’ funding is not only available towards full qualifications but also individual units at levels 3 and 4 which means employers are being supported in addressing very specific skills needs. This is something which Improve has been pushing hard for because our food and drink industry needs a choice of training solutions which will deliver real benefits to businesses.

“Pre-packaged qualifications don’t always address the specific skills needs of an individual business so there is a degree of inefficiency about them. Linking funding to skills attainment through individual units means employers can be confident that they are getting bespoke training directly relevant to their business needs and the government can be sure that public money is being used more efficiently to target specific skill shortages.”

The programme will only be delivered by training providers which are approved by the National Skills Academy for Food and Drink Manufacturing.

“Employers will be able to work more closely with our providers to better develop a network of provision that meets their needs,” said Liz. “Overall we expect the programme to address skills gaps, meet new skills needs and increase investment in developing technician and professional skills to deliver real impact on economic growth in the food and drink industry.”


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