The reception focused on what was needed to improve productivity and attract new talent to the food sector.
Dilemma: desire to expand vs growing skills gap
A recent CBI survey showed that half of British businesses plan to expand their workforce in 2015, with Scotland leading the way for job growth. But many employers are concerned about a skills gap, seeing it as the biggest threat to the UK’s competitiveness.
“It’s a concern that the UK’s growing skills gap is now seen as the number one workforce threat to the long-term health of its economy. Companies and the government need to work together to find ways to develop skills within the workforce and help employees move into higher skilled and better paid jobs,” said Katja Hall, CBI deputy director-general.
The SFDF launched ‘A Future in Food’ in partnership with Education Scotland. It aims to show pupils the real-world value of subjects such as maths, science, IT and home economics, and how these could be of use within the food and drinks industry. So far over 3000 pupils and 70 companies have participated in the scheme.
“Food and drink manufacturers wish to recruit the brightest and best recruits and we are competing with other industries to attract these individuals,” saidAnna Taylor,Media and Campaigns Manager for SFDF.
“We evaluate every partnership and the responses (from pupils) are overwhelmingly positive…Many indicate that they didn't realise how many jobs were available, how scientific and innovative the industry is or how big the industry is in Scotland,” she added.
The Scottish government has recognized food and drink as a priority sector for the Scottish economy, and has invested £450,000 in funding since the programme began.
Roseanna Cunningham, MSP and cabinet secretary for fair work said: “The Scottish Government shares the view … that employers must work closely with our schools and colleges.”
The food and drinks industry is Scotland’s largest manufacturing sector, generating £9bn to the Scottish economy annually and employing over 50,000 people.