The Food and Drink Sector Council (FDSC), of which NFU is a participant, has today published a new report: ‘Preparing for a changing workforce: A food and drink supply chain approach to skills’ as part of its efforts to secure the UK’s position as a world leader in safe, sustainable, affordable and high-quality food and drink.
While the report is not exclusively focused on pre farm gate, it paints a useful picture of workforce and skills issues across the wider food and drink sector. Drawing from its evidence based approach, including analysis of a research survey conducted across the entire food chain (including NFU members), the report makes the followings strategic recommendations on how these issues can be addressed:
- Create a pilot ‘Food Sector Fund’ in conjunction with the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) that could sit within the existing Apprenticeship Levy scheme so that unspent levy funds can be invested within the food and drink supply chain;
- Ensure businesses in the industry commit to providing T Level placements when this new technical qualification is rolled out in 2021-2022;
- Government priority be given to apprenticeships that drive productivity by working with industry to map out relevant apprenticeship standards and ensure gaps are filled;
- Create a national network of training providers to deliver high quality relevant training;
- Allow pathways for managers to receive management skills training;
- Ensure the work of the Senior Leadership Group on skills and training in the sector which the NFU is heavily involved and which has a pre-farm gate focus is supported;
- Place skills enhancement at the centre of the UK’s future Food Strategy; and
- Foster lifelong learning culture e.g. through business to business coaching of managers.
It also references the value of the sector to the UK and outlines the need for the food and drink sector to ensure that there is a better understanding of the varied roles available within the industry.
In summary, the report brings together two sides of the same coin. It captures the valid concerns that exist around access to labour and skills shortages which are particularly pressing at the moment with Brexit approaching. At the same time, it looks to build a positive training and skills framework to revamp training provision and grow talent for the future - both in terms of further upskilling the current workforce and attracting new talent.