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Appetite for Skills takes off with student workshop

13 January 2012

Appetite for Skills, a student workshop associated with Appetite for Engineering and Food Processing, will take place at the University of Lincoln’s National Centre for Food Manufacturing (NCFM) on 27 March

This news comes after the UK food and drink manufacturing sector won a vote of confidence from Government which says it is to inject almost £1.7million into a range of strategic skills projects designed to support competitiveness, growth and jobs.

The intention of Appetite for Skills is to encourage and inspire young people to consider a career in engineering in the food and drink industry - starting through work placement, university/further education, degree courses or apprenticeships.

To help get the message across - that food and drink is an exciting and dynamic industry to work in - Food Processing has planned two experimental student workshop days, at Holbeach in March and Campden later in the year. They will be designed to educate and inspire young people to consider the industry as a truly positive option for their career.

The workshops will consist of about 150 students arriving at about 10.30am, rotating around a conference, exhibition, and demonstration areas, while taking breaks for sustenance and networking, and departing about 3.00pm.

Companies that get involved will sponsor the events, deliver a 10-minute animated presentation to the students, and will have a small display in the networking area.

''I know that with the food industry's help we can make these two days work, giving ammunition for us to apply to the Government for a grant to run a regular monthly workshop, at a dozen locations around the country,'' says Peter Whitfield, founder of Appetite for Engineering and Appetite for Skills.

''The application is in hand, and is strengthened with support so far with speakers so far from ABB, Britvic, Festo, Marks & Spencer and Samworth Brothers who will be wowing the students with how exciting the food and drink industry is.''

Mike Mountain, chief engineer at Samworth Brothers, is an enthusiastic proponent of the workshop. He says: ''In light of the fact the food and drink Industry is facing an impending skills shortage, I believe the Appetite for Skills workshop is an extremely timely and good initiative. We need to make young people aware that the sector is an exciting, interesting and rewarding profession to be in.

''I believe that the sector is entering into a very interesting and challenging time while it moves itself into the 21st Century. More companies are realising they need to embrace automation and sustainability to remain profitable and competitive nationally and internationally, and for them to do this they need to attract the best apprentices and graduates.

''Fortunately the Government has a long last realised how important this sector is to the economy and how much potential it has for the future with the recent funding and initiatives being good to see.

''By bringing together students with companies, engineers and managers from the sector in a manufacturing environment we can hopefully dispel the myths they have of the industry. Perhaps another way we could consider using to reach the students is through their more accepted forms of communication the Web, Facebook and Twitter?''

Nicki Hunt, the careers campaign manager for the Food & Drink Federation (FDF), says: "Food manufacturing has tremendous potential for growing 20% by 2020 and is being recognised as a key driver of the UK economy. To make the most of our growth potential we need to focus on recruiting the most talented staff and developing the skills of our current workforce. We realise we have an image issue to address as many students just see hairnets, wellies and production lines as being what food manufacturing is all about.

"They may miss the many fantastic opportunities and wide range of entry routes that industry can offer as well as the excellent pay and prospects. Our ambition is to attract the brightest and best for all sectors including science, engineering and brand management. It's time for us to showcase how much our industry has to offer as a career choice.

"Through our Taste Success - A Future in Food campaign we will be speaking to students and the people that influence them, such as careers advisers and teachers. We also have a role to play in engaging stakeholders throughout food and drink manufacturing and ensuring that we are working in partnership to make an industry wide impact."

Julian Hunt, communications manager, Coca-Cola Enterprises said: “The food and drink industry is a fantastic place in which to build a career – and we offer all sorts of opportunities, from apprenticeships to graduate schemes.

“Once on board, we provide our people with many opportunities to enhance their skills, and develop their careers with us, which I believe is just one reason why we have relatively low staff turnover.

“At CCE we believe it’s important to help young people understand what modern manufacturing is all about and become enthusiastic about a career in food and drink – that’s why we have invested in education centres at four of our major production sites and run the annual Real Business Challenge.”

Graham Darch, regional engineering manager at Britivic said: “At Britvic it's paramount to our continued success that we have people with the right skills in the right areas delivering flawlessly day by day. To enable us to do this we focus on developing both functional skills, the technical skills required to do a role and the personal skills, the how to do role, its called Britvic DNA. Engineering is a really good example of where in Britvic this is a firmly established process.

“Our Apprenticeships develop young people in both aspects and we now partner with the Outward Bound Trust to deliver a different experience and embed our DNA. We continue to invest in on going technical training, ensuring that our engineering functions can support the demands of our manufacturing plants. We have some big plans for Britvic and we are going to need excellent people to deliver them, learning and development have never been more important to us."

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