Attracting food industry talent ‘never more urgent’

By Michael Stones

- Last updated on GMT

The food and drink sector will need to recruit 130,000 new employees by 2024
The food and drink sector will need to recruit 130,000 new employees by 2024

Related tags Food industry Food Industry

Food and drink manufacturers have never faced “a more urgent challenge” to attract talent, according to the Food and Drink Federation (FDF), as it launched a new report designed to help plug the industry skills gap.

Facing the need to recruit 130,000 new employees needed by 2024, the FDF has partnered with a range of organisations to prepare a guide to attracting and retaining the next generation of food engineers, scientists and leaders. 

Its report – ‘Unlocking Talent – The Key to Driving Food and Drink Productivity’ – identified key steps to maintaining the talent pipeline.

Mondelēz International and Premier Foods

Contributing to the report were the National Skills Academy for Food and Drink, foodservice firm Apetito, Butt Foods, Nestlé, Mars, Mondelēz International and Premier Foods. The report formed part of Sir Charlie Mayfield’s Productivity Review.

Nestlé UK ceo and FDF president Fiona Kendrick said: “As the largest sector of UK manufacturing, food and drink has an enormous contribution to make to boosting the productivity of the economy.

“Since 2009, productivity performance in food and drink has increased by 11%. We’ve got a great productivity story to tell, but we also know we have more to do.

“Bringing the right people with the right skills in to our businesses is central – the skills gap facing food and drink is not new, but the need to close it has never been more urgent,” ​said Kendrick ahead of the report’s publication at the FDF’s Summer Parliamentary Reception.

The industry’s priorities were to boost the quantity and quality of apprenticeships, improve engagement with schools and collaboration with Higher and Further Education and showcase the exciting career opportunities on offer, she added.

‘Period of unprecedented uncertainty’

FDF director general Ian Wright said: “While UK industry now faces a period of unprecedented uncertainty, it is clear that a large proportion of our talented and highly skilled workforce is moving inexorably towards retirement. This creates a skills gap in key areas.

​That poses a big challenge for the industry and a massive opportunity for new entrants to the labour market seeking highly skilled, well-paid careers in a dynamic industry.

Wright said food and drink manufacturers needed more of the right skills across a range of areas to continue to drive future innovation to support the UK’s competitive advantage. 

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