Food manufacturers to lure young engineers

By Michael Stones

- Last updated on GMT

Tomorrow's Engineers Week aims to lure young people into a manufacturing career
Tomorrow's Engineers Week aims to lure young people into a manufacturing career

Related tags Industry

Food and drink manufacturers are planning to lure young engineers away from competing sectors, such as aerospace and automotive, during Tomorrow’s Engineer Week, which started on Monday (November 3).

More than 2,400 students and teachers are being targeted in a bid to inspire interest in engineering and other food and drink manufacturing careers related to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

Both students and teachers haven been invited to visit food and drink businesses for an update on careers available in the sector, as part of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills See Inside Manufacturing programme.

The Food and Drink Federation (FDF) hoped highlighting case studies of industry role models and careers during visits will lure the next generation of industry workers to choose the food sector in preference to others.

‘Less well known’

FDF director of employment and skills Angela Coleshill said the value of the sector to the economy and the consumer was well-understood. “Less well-known is the range of skilled roles on offer. Through initiatives like the government’s See Inside Manufacturing programme and the creation of the UK’s first MEng food engineering degree we hope to raise the profile of careers in our sector and create a robust pipeline of skilled workers.”

Minister for manufacturing Matthew Hancock said FDF members had engaged record numbers through See Inside Manufacturing. “It’s fantastic to see them taking the lead again; creating the first ever MEng food engineering course in the UK,” ​he said. “This will give the next generation the skills they need to rise through the ranks of food and drink; Britain’s largest manufacturing sector.”

The manufacturers’ organisation EEF said firms were desperate to recruit young talent. Two-thirds of manufacturers planned to recruit an engineering graduate in the next three years, while the same proportion wanted to recruit an engineering apprentice in the next 12 months.

But four in five manufacturers were struggling to recruit, with 69% of firms blaming the shortfall on candidates’ lack technical skills, said EEF. Nearly half (48%) of firms do not have enough applicants to fill job roles.

‘Struggled with an image problem’

EEF employment and skills policy adviser Verity O’Keefe, said: “The fact is that our sector ​[manufacturing] has struggled with an image problem and this has left it lagging behind in the race to attract talent. It’s vital that young people are now given an accurate and up-to-date picture of the wealth of opportunities on offer.

“The skills shortage, higher than average pay and the fact that manufacturing is leaping up the government and public agenda, makes this a key time to reach out to young people and ensure they understand how and why they should get involved.”

Meanwhile, the best and brightest youngsters in food and drink manufacturing will be celebrated at the Food Manufacturing Excellence Awards​ (FMEAs) later this month in a gala evening at the Hilton, Park Lane in central London.

The new Young Talent of the Year award will celebrate the individuals at apprentice, technician and graduate levels who are making their mark in food and drink manufacturing. More information about the gala awards evening on Thursday November 20 is available here.

Watch Justine Fosh, chief executive of the National Skills Academy for Food and Drink and FMEA judge, talk about the calibre of the entrants here​. 

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