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Industry comes together to solve major shortage of Food Scientists through new Trailblazer Apprenticeship

12 November 2014

Food and Drink industry specialists are to come together to address the shortage of Food Scientists and other key occupations through the Government’s Trailblazer initiative that sees employers in the driving seat of new standards for apprenticeship routes into food manufacturing for young people. 

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) has confirmed Food Science as one of seven areas to benefit from the development of new Trailblazer standards by a group of food manufacturing businesses following a collective industry submission to undertake the work supported by the National Skills Academy for Food & Drink. 

Skills Minister Nick Bowles said: “I congratulate Food & Drink Manufacturing’s Trailblazer Employer Group members and the National Skills Academy for Food & Drink for the key role they are playing in developing new top-quality apprenticeships.”

“Through the Trailblazers initiative, companies like these, in collaborations with their industry partners, will give people the skills they need to thrive and our businesses need to compete.”

The new Food Science Trailblazer follows in the wake of the Apprenticeship in Food & Drink Engineering Maintenance currently being developed by food businesses under the leadership of Arla Foods’ head of engineering, SØren Vonsild.

Welcoming the latest Trailblazers, Justine Fosh, CEO of the National Skills Academy for Food & Drink, said: “We are delighted that the Government has approved this critical development for the industry. One-by-one, the major areas of skills shortage across our sector are being addressed through strong employer collaboration. We have started with engineering and now have the go-ahead to develop brand new routes for apprentices to study Food Science at all levels of the industry.” 

“With a third of all Food Science full-time educational provision unsustainable it is even more important that we have alternative routes developed for young people to develop careers in Quality, Product Development and Technical teams. “

In addition to addressing the shortage of skills in roles requiring food science, such as Quality Assurance and Product Development the industry is also seeking to address skills gaps in other key areas such as in Production and Operations roles and in key industry sectors such as Bakery.  

A steering group, to be chaired by 2 Sisters Food Group learning and development manager Janette Graham, will act as a central hub overseeing the collaborative development of all the new Trailblazer Apprenticeships. 

A range of businesses (see notes to editors) have already volunteered involvement in setting the new standards for the latest batch of Trailblazers. 

However the National Skills Academy for Food & Drink, which is supporting the new steering group, said the door was always open to more businesses to ensure that future apprenticeships were fully reflective of the breadth of industry interest.

“The creation of a central steering group to co-ordinate new Trailblazer standards right across the industry will not only ensure a holistic approach by the sector but continues our drive to facilitate greater pan-sector collaboration in tackling common skills issues and challenges,” explained Academy CEO Justine Fosh. 

The new Trailblazer Apprenticeships, to be introduced from 2015, follow on from a landmark report from Dragon’s Den entrepreneur Doug Richards which called for business-led reform designed to ensure apprentices are totally role-ready on completion of apprenticeship training.

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