Industry boss Dame Fiona Kendrick is calling for a concerted effort to attract new talent into the food sector.
Dame Kendrick believes that the unprecedented challenges now facing the food industry will be weathered with the influx of new talent to boost productivity in the sector.
A Skills Shortage
Compared with other industries in the UK, the food and drink sector is performing well, outstripping national average levels and even faring better than some international competitors. However, this could all be set to change, as a severe skills shortage only stands to get worse.
Key technical and scientific areas already see gaps, with skilled employees missing from the ranks, and an ageing workforce means that further skilled positions will slip through the cracks as time goes on. According to one estimate, we will require as many as 130,000 new employees in the food and drink industry by 2024.
Dame Fiona Kendrick is the CEO of Nestle UK as well as the President of the Food and Drink Federation, and she gave her opinion on the matter at their latest Summer Parliamentary Reception. She said: "As the largest sector of UK manufacturing, food and drink has an enormous contribution to make to boosting the productivity of the economy. Since 2009, productivity performance in food and drink has increased by 11 per cent.
"We've got a great productivity story to tell, but we also know we have more to do. Bringing the right people with the right skills in to our businesses is central – the skills gap facing food and drink is not new, but the need to close it has never been more urgent.
"Our priorities are to increase the quantity and quality of our apprenticeships, improve our engagement with schools and our collaboration with Higher and Further Education and showcase the exciting career opportunities on offer."
Agreement From Wright
The Director General of the FDF, Ian Wright, was in agreement with Dame Kendrick. He said, said: "While UK industry now faces a period of unprecedented uncertainty, it is clear that a large proportion of our talented and highly skilled workforce is moving inexorably towards retirement. This creates a skills gap in key areas. That poses a big challenge for the industry and a massive opportunity for new entrants to the labour market seeking highly skilled, well-paid careers in a dynamic industry.
"Food and drink manufacturers need more of the right skills across a range of areas to continue to drive future innovation to support our UK competitive advantage."
Essential steps have now been decided on for getting that talent flow coming in again, thanks to collaboration from Butt Foods, apetito, Nestle, Mars, Premier Foods, and Mondelez International.
Joining the Workforce
If you want to take on skilled jobs in the food and drink industry, there are plenty of areas where you could fit in. Jobs for graduates are in particular good supply, so make sure to head by YourFoodJob.com if you are currently pursuing a degree and want to find employment at the end of it.
As for the other kinds of skilled work you could take on, food science positions are readily available, with more jobs than candidates in many cases. It’s also clear that there is more need for engineering roles, and there are plenty of routes you could take within the industry. Development of new products, research, marketing, packaging, and all kinds of opportunities are available for those who wish to drive the industry towards a new future. This is essential for the continued growth of the UK sector in coming years.