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Improve welcomes apprenticeships for over-25s.

Englands food and drink-manufacturing industry is on course to benefit froma significant leap in apprentice numbers after the government this monthscrapped the upper age limit on funding.

To date, employers have only been able to attract financial assistance fortaking on apprentices between the ages of 16 and 24. After successful pilotschemes, adult apprenticeships are now being made available across allindustries in England.

The news marks a significant victory for Improve, the food and drink sectorskills council, which oversees the industrys apprenticeships and has longlobbied for the age limit to be abolished.

Jack Matthews, the chief executive of Improve, said: “Our vision is to makethe UK food and drink manufacturing industry the world leader by deliveringworld-class skills in the work place, and we feel apprenticeships are anessential ingredient in achieving that.

“Our industry tends to attract older workers. More than half the industrysemployees are aged 40 and over and the vast majority are over 25, so fundingapprenticeships only up to the age of 24 is of very limited help toemployers. School leavers alone will not meet the industrys skills needs,but in older workers we have an excellent resource just waiting to bedeveloped.”

More than 40 training providers, who work in food and drink manufacturing,including the likes of Poultec, the University of Lincolnshire, North LancsTraining and Orient Gold, are now in the process of applying to the Learningand Skills Council (LSC) to run adult apprenticeship schemes. Employers willthen be able to access schemes funded from a government pot worth more than£30 million.

The schemes are expected to be ready to run from late autumn, coincidingwith the launch of the new, more flexible food and drink manufacturingapprenticeship framework, which Improve has drawn up to replace the currentapprenticeships in bakery, meat and poultry processing and general food anddrink manufacture.

Mr Matthews added: “Employers also want to be able to offer training to new recruits and existing employees of all ages. Having access to funding for adult apprenticeships will further boost their ability to do this.”

Chris Mitchell

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