From education to employment


As the new school year starts, new research from IGD reveals that while recruiting managers in the food and grocery industry find engineering roles the most difficult to fill, with nearly half (48%) citing these jobs as hardest to recruit for, nearly one in ten (9%) Year 12 students claim that engineering is their dream job. Indeed, despite the well documented skills gap for STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) roles, IGD, the education and training charity for the food and grocery industry, is revealing a positive picture.
Launching today (13 Sept) to a group of senior officials spanning the food, grocery and education sector, the results form part of new research   – the first of its kind from IGD – assessing the skills gaps in the food and grocery industry. As well as surveying over 1,000 Year 9 and Year 12 students, IGD’s research also includes input from over 200 professionals from some of the biggest companies across the food and grocery supply chain to identify the nature of the skills gaps, the underlying causes and what the industry can do to address the issues.
Joanne Denney-Finch, IGD’s Chief Executive said: “Much has been said about the STEM skills shortage in the UK and our research supports this. However, the work that has been done to encourage young people to study these subjects appears to be paying off, with engineering coming through as the most desired career option for almost one in 10 secondary school students. As well as being the biggest private sector employer with 3.9 million employees, food and drink is also the UK’s largest manufacturing sector worth £96bn – more than vehicle production and aerospace combined – and offers incredible opportunities for young people.
“We can see that young people do find the food and grocery industry attractive, however there is an awareness issue – young people aren’t considering the industry simply because they do not know enough about it, which presents a clear opportunity for the industry to raise its profile to the next generation. This is even more evident when we look at what motivates young people into the world of work, with our research identifying work/life balance, promotion opportunities, training and company values as ranking higher than salary.”
The main findings from the research are:
Engineering roles are the most difficult to recruit
Recruiting managers in the food and grocery industry find engineering roles the most difficult to recruit for, with nearly half (48%) citing these roles as hardest to fill. This is closely followed by jobs that require specialist technology skills, for example developing robotic solutions or in food technology, with 42% of managers finding recruitment difficult in this area.
Roles in food production and other technical jobs like quality assurance are also cited by 31% and 23% of recruiting managers, respectively. Concluding the top five hardest technical roles to recruit for in the food and grocery industry are science-based roles like food scientist or nutritionist, with 22% of recruiting managers struggling to find people in these areas.
Engaging with young people is vital to build awareness
Highlighting the role that the industry has to play in inspiring the next generation, three quarters (75%) of secondary school students say they want to learn more about jobs through work experience and just under two-thirds (63%) say they would like more opportunities to interact with employers face-to-face. Furthermore, of people aged 16-25 who have recently started working in the food and grocery industry, 58% claim that hands-on work experience was a major influencer in deciding to join the industry.
While parents remain the first source of careers advice for secondary school students, with 77% saying this is how they get information about careers, followed by teachers and other education providers (64%), teachers acknowledge that they find giving advice about specific industries challenging. However, the role that the food and grocery industry can play is clear, with 88% of teachers agreeing that more interactions with industry professionals would help and nearly two-thirds (63%) valuing long-term engagement with a local company.
The food and grocery industry is attractive to young people
Young, new starters to the sector overwhelmingly agree that the industry has much to offer, with 89% saying that the opportunities for career development were a key reason for entering food and grocery. In addition, IGD’s research shows that the more students learn about the food and grocery industry and the opportunities available, the more likely they are to consider the industry for their future career. Before students take part in one of IGD’s Feeding Britain’s Future workshops, where students meet industry professionals and learn about employability skills, 43% say they would consider a career in the industry, with this rising to 73% after a workshop.
The value of face-to-face interactions with industry professionals, even in a relatively short time-frame, on perceptions of the food and grocery industry are further highlighted by IGD’s research. Prior to attending a two-hour Feeding Britain’s Future workshop, one quarter (25%) of school students claim they have good knowledge of food and grocery, with the number of students describing their knowledge of the industry as ‘good’ rising to 87% after participating.
Joanne Denney-Finch adds: “Through IGD’s learning programmes we aim to develop people throughout their careers, which starts with informing and inspiring school children about the world of work, equipping people to get started and upskilling them throughout their career. This research highlights how important our learning programmes are for the future of our industry and I’m passionate about increasing the impact of our training so even more young people learn about the exciting opportunities our industry has to offer.”
Feeding Britain’s Future brings the food and grocery supply chain to life for students by taking industry professionals into schools, with 90% of students saying they feel more prepared for the world of work following a session. The initiative has trained over 15,000 students supported by 3,000 industry professionals in schools across the country and aims to highlight the diverse range of careers the food and grocery industry has to offer, while also helping to develop the skills needed to thrive in the workplace.
IGD’s Leading Edge and collaborative development programmes provide lifelong learning for the food and grocery industry, building a network in the sector that can last a lifetime.
Find out more about Feeding Britain’s Future and IGD’s Learning Programmes for the industry here

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