From education to employment

Sector Skills Council Serves Up Tasty Training Treat for Enhancing Skills

Improve, the Sector Skills Council (SSC), are in the process of preparing a master plan aimed at enhancing skills in food and drink manufacturing. The plan is predicted to be ready for launch in January 2007 and will be known as the Sector Skills Action-plan (SSA).

Improve is one of 25 sector skills councils established by the government to take the lead in driving up skills in the workplace in order to promote higher productivity and stronger competitiveness for UK businesses in the global market. The food and drinks industry is huge. It has a turnover of over £66 billion each year and employs over 650,000 people across the UK, in more than 30,000 businesses.

The True Taste of Training

As you might expect with an industry of this size and scale, the opportunities to get involved and work in food and drinks manufacturing are both widespread and varied. However, the industry has one of the most poorly qualified workforces in the UK. According to Improve, approximately 19 % of the sectors workforce has no qualifications, compared to the average of 11 % for the total UK workforce. One third of staff in the processing sector have no qualifications at all.

The SSC aim to improve greater commitment to developing skills in their workforces by working closely with employers, schools, colleges, universities and private training organisations to improve the provision of basic skills training and to make vocational and occupational training more relevant to the modern commercial climate. The council will set out what needs to be done to alleviate so-called “skill shortages”, which result in unfilled vacancies, and “skill gaps”, which prevent existing employees from fulfilling their potential.

Politicians get Taste for Taste

Qualifications for the Food and Drink Sector cover a wide range of operations, as well as food hygiene and food safety. Qualifications are available at levels one to three and can be delivered and assessed in the workplace (S/NVQs) or used to give the technical knowledge and understanding needed to do a job (VRQs).

Jamie Oliver, the celebrity chef whose television series “Jamie’s Kitchen” inspired disadvantaged young people to believe that they can create a career for themselves in the restaurant business, seems to have been the start of this new campaign. The celebrity chef was also the founder of the Channel 4 series “Jamie’s School Dinners”.

The series saw Mr Oliver bust a proverbial gut persuading schools to ditch the processed, ready-made junk food the students are used to eating, and replace it with fresh, tasty, nutritious food, prepared from scratch every day. After much deliberation and lobbying the TV chef welcomed the governments extra £280 million to tackle the school meals “crisis” in England. Mr Blair paid tribute to the chef, but claimed that the government had been working on the issue for “quite a long time”.

Maria Vitale

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