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Appetite for Skills proves a huge success

29 March 2012

Appetite for Skills, which was held at the National Centre for Food Manufacturing at the Holbeach campus of the University of Lincoln on 27 March, was deemed a success by exhibitors, organisers and attendees

The event took place in two sessions between 10am-3pm and included presentations from Marks & Spencer, GE, Rockwell Automation, Festo, Britvic, Samworth Brothers and Marel.

Outside the conference hall, exhibitors each had a stand at which they provided literature for the two groups of children who attended. Students had more than enough time to walk around the conference and landing area and see speakers and demonstrations again.

More than 170 young people attended, and in a survey which was released afterwards, 42 said they had an 'excellent' general impression of the event. Forty-nine said the company information including stands and demos was 'excellent'. Interestingly, 12 youngsters said they would consider a job in the food industry, which meant the event changed eight youngsters' minds.

Comments from the youngsters included the fact that they liked the 'relaxed environment', they liked the idea of apprenticeships; they found the event 'interesting and relevant'; they didn't know about apprenticeships until they attended the event; they 'didn't know how much you could earn in the food industry'; and they 'got loads of great things to keep'.

Peter Whitfield, founder of Appetite for Engineering and Appetite for Skills, was thrilled with the enthusiasm of all those taking part. ''This gives us ammunition to apply to the Government for a grant to run regular workshops at locations around the country.''

''Our application will be strengthened by the support we've received from ABB, Britvic, Festo, GE, Marks & Spencer and Samworth Brothers who wowed the students with how exciting the food and drink industry is.''

One of the attendees, Mike Mountain, chief engineer at Samworth Brothers, looked pleased with the turnout at the event. "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 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."


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