UK attempts to boost employee skills

Related tags Employment

In a bid to meet the skill shortage in the food and drink industry
the UK has set up a system to provide employers with an accredited
system for checking the qualifications of potential employees.

The Green Card is the first UK-wide passport for skills, which has been devised specifically to meet the needs of food and drink manufacturers, stated Improve, the organisation running the system.The Green Card, which went into operation on 1 July, may provide an example for other countries in the EU that are also facing difficulties finding skilled employees for the food and drinks sector.

The UK's food and drink industry has one of the most poorly qualified workforces in the UK, according to Improve. About 19 per cent of the sectors workforce has no qualifications, compared to theaverage of 11 per cent for the total UK workforce. One third of staff in the processing sector have no qualifications at all.

In addition there is a significant under-representation of females to males. Males make up two-thirds of the sector's workforce compared to the national average where males make up a little over ahalf of the entire UK workforce.

The Green Card system aims to provide a record of skills achievements for every employee in the sector. The data will be accredited, centrally-held, and accessible through the Internet.

The system has been under trial for three months. It is intended for employers, colleges, training providers and employment agencies throughout the UK.

Representatives from 10 colleges, including six in food and drink manufacturing vocational centres are among those supporting the system.

"It's important that the colleges are on board as verifiers, and we will be spending more time working with them to ensure the scheme fits with their procedures," said Improve's developmentdirector Derek Williams.

"The overall response to the Green Card has been extremely positive We are in discussions with a number of major employers who want to be among the first to adopt the scheme, as well as many ofthe leading commercial training providers who are keen to become official verifiers of skills achievements. We hope soon to be announcing the first formal commitments to join the scheme from leadingorganisations within the food and drink manufacturing sector."

Under the scheme, employees are issued with a card in the form of a credit-card-sized pass. It will contain the holder's name, a unique number and a photograph. Holders will be able to use thenumber to access the record of achievement via the Improve web site. With the employee's permission, employers or accredited training providers will also be able to access the information.

Accredited training providers will also supply updated information to the database as the holder reaches additional levels of skill or achieves additional qualifications.

Employers will be able to access the information in order to verify the skills of prospective employees and to plan personal development programmes for their staff.

As it's an independent record of skills and achievements that meet recognised industry standards, the information is transferable from one employer to another. When moving to a new job, employeeswill be able to demonstrate that they will not have to repeat training unnecessarily, which will also save employers time and money, Williams stated.

To qualify for a Green Card employees must have relevant skills achievements, which vary depending on the type of job they do. New entrants to the sector, such as school and college leavers, theunemployed, career changers, and migrant workers, will be required to undergo mandatory, entry-level training modules, in subjects such as food hygiene and health and safety, before gaining theirGreen Card.

Improve said it will work closely with the operators of existing employer and regional skills records schemes in the food and drink sector so that their schemes can be endorsed as satisfying theImprove Green Card standard. The skills and qualifications data can then be entered on the central Improve Green Card record of achievement.

The UK'S food and drink manufacturing sector employs somewhere between 500,000 and 900,000 staff, or about 1.6 per cent f the total UK workforce.

Improve​ was established in July last year by the Skills for Business Network and is sponsored by the UK's department for learning andskills.

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