IGD, the research and training charity, has today announced it is tackling the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) skills gap in the food and grocery industry by incorporating STEM activities in all its Feeding Britain’s Future programmes.

With nearly half (48%) of recruiting managers in the food and grocery industry thinking engineering is the hardest technical area to recruit for, IGD is supporting the Government’s Year of Engineering campaign by bringing to life engineering roles within the food and grocery industry, as part of its Feeding Britain’s Future STEM initiatives.  

Feeding Britain’s Future STEM activity happens in secondary schools via dedicated workshops, through the Educator Hub that is aimed at teachers and at five UK universities providing a taster of food science degrees to aspiring students.

Fiona Miller, Head of Employability and Skills at IGD, said:

“We know through our skills research that the food and grocery sector is experiencing a considerable STEM skills gap and that students have limited knowledge of the opportunities our industry holds.

“As STEM roles are hard to recruit for now, and as we move towards becoming even more automated, digital and high-tech, we expect demand for these roles to increase and the industry faces an extremely competitive talent search. Our job is to help close this gap in knowledge about the potential our industry holds for young talent with a STEM education. Furthermore, our initiatives are aligned with the government’s career strategy and help schools to link curriculum learning to careers especially in STEM subjects.”

IGD’s Feeding Britain’s Future STEM initiatives include:

  • STEM workshops, aimed at Year 12 science and maths students, feature volunteers from the food and grocery industry with a STEM background and are now applying their training in industry roles like engineers, food scientists and technologists. Students learn how they can use STEM subjects in the world of work and discover the breadth of roles the food industry offers. Piloted in 2018, 50 STEM workshops have trained 1,000 students and featured volunteers from 35 companies
  • For teachers and careers advisors, the Educator Hub is a free online resource to help link the curriculum to careers by providing information about the food and grocery industry through case studies, films and classroom activities. The Educator Hub includes a range of employability skills content and showcases STEM roles including scientists, food technologists, web designers and engineers
  • Food Science Summer Schools are three-day courses hosted at five UK universities, providing Year 12 science students the opportunity to understand the role of science in food and raise awareness of the career opportunities available in the industry. Since 2010, over 1,000 students have been trained at Food Science Summer Schools
  • STEM activities in the School Partnerships programme, where food and grocery companies develop long-term relationships with a secondary school in their community, have increased in 2018. Activities include manufacturing site tours, food safety challenges, new product development showcases and bringing engineers into the classroom to describe their role, highlighting the skills required and opportunities available

Fiona Miller continues: “Our STEM workshops provide a personalised experience for students with relatable role models demonstrating the vast number of paths available to them. This has helped make the pilot phase incredibly successful – with 95% of students feeling they have developed their employability skills and are more prepared for the world of work following a STEM workshop. We’re now looking forward to rolling the STEM workshops out further in 2019.”

*IGD Bridging Skills Gap research, 2017. Industry survey with responses from more than 200 professionals from 40 companies

About IGD: A research and training charity which sits at the heart of the food and grocery industry. It has a trading subsidiary that provides commercial services. The profits from these commercial services fund the charity. As a charity IGD exists to upskill people working in or looking to join the food and grocery industry. It also manages initiatives driven by research and best practice relating to science, technology or economics in the food industry

About The Year of Engineering: A national government campaign to show young people from different backgrounds the vast opportunities engineering careers offers to shape the world around them. Working with more than 1,400 partners, the campaign aims to give young people 1 million direct and inspiring experiences of engineering across a range of sectors including food and grocery. 

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