From education to employment

Food and drink sector bucks the national trend and hires more apprentices

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UK food and drink businesses are responding to labour shortages by hiring more area-specific apprentices, new figures reveal.

According to data from the Department for Education, the number of young people starting maintenance engineer apprenticeships increased by 75% and technical operators grew by 25% between August and October 2022.

These are both areas where there are significant skills shortages, demonstrating how apprenticeships are a valuable tool used by food and drink companies to recruit new talent and upskill their people. The industry has already responded by introducing the Food and Drink Careers Passport, an employability tool which provides jobseekers across the UK with the opportunity to gain pre-entry training and accreditation.

In comparison, apprenticeship starts were down nationally by 6.1% to 122,290 compared to the same period in 2021.

Both the NSAFD and FDF are united in the view the UK Government can do more to support companies to invest their resources into the workforce of tomorrow. This includes giving greater flexibility in the Apprenticeship Levy, allowing employers to use unspent funds to invest in shorter, modular training and help drive growth and productivity in the UK’s largest manufacturing sector. 

The Further Education sector is also facing unprecedented challenges with rising costs and lack of funding. To secure more sustainable Apprenticeship provision, the UK Government needs to increase support for colleges to allow them to recruit and retain high quality tutors and review the current funding bands.

The CEO at the NSAFD Louise Cairns said:

“We are thrilled that these two newly updated, sector flagship, apprenticeship standards are thriving in a decreasing apprenticeship landscape.

“The sector works hard to develop these standards to ensure they meet their future skills needs and are demonstrating their commitment by investing over £6.5m in apprenticeship starts in the three months to October 2022. A real example of food and drink employers embracing the employer led model by developing and investing in apprenticeship programmes that are fit for purpose”

The FDF’s head of industry growth Caroline Keohane said:

With a footprint in every region and nation in the UK, food and drink companies employ nearly half a million people and provide career opportunities at all levels in a range of roles from engineers and technical operators to marketeers and finance.

“Our manufacturers realise apprenticeships bring a more diverse, motivated and loyal workforce. But we need more support particularly for smaller businesses who need a more hands on approach with identifying the right apprenticeship programmes, funding and training providers.”

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