Apprentices vital to food and drink

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Modern Apprenticeships are at the centre of a plan to support the growth of Scotland’s £12.5 billion food and drink industry.

It is forecast that thousands of job opportunities will become available in the sector over the next five years as a result of retirement and expansion.

Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead and Minister for Youth Employment, Angela Constance, joined forces at the Royal Highland Show today to highlight the importance of attracting young people to work in the industry, which is one of Scotland’s key economic sectors.

The Food and Drink Skills Investment Plan has been developed by a range of partners including Skills Development Scotland, Scotland Food & Drink, Scottish Enterprise, Highlands & Islands Enterprise, Lantra and Improve.

The four strategic priorities outlined in the plan are:

  • Raising the attractiveness of the sector to new entrants
  • Supporting company capacity to innovate
  • Delivering leadership and management excellence in the sector
  • Supporting the development of skills for growth in the workplace

Launching the initiative, Mr Lochhead said:

“Scotland is rightly hailed as a land of food and drink, with our wonderful produce recognised the world over, and we want to build on our reputation at every turn.

“Food and drink is a Scottish success story at a time when other industries are struggling due to tough economic conditions. The Food and Drink Skills Investment Plan will help the industry flourish, encouraging closer working between the public and private sector as well as highlighting the fantastic career opportunities on offer to young people across Scotland.

“Four years ago there were less than 100 food and drink Modern Apprentices and now there are more than 1,000. This represents a huge vote of confidence by the industry in a process that allows them to ‘grow their own’ skilled people to meet the need of their business.”

Morven Campbell, 19 years old, from Aberfeldy joined Mr Lochhead and Ms Constance on the Lantra stand at the Royal Highland Show where she showed S4 pupils from her former high school, Breadalbane Academy, what’s involved in working in modern agriculture.

Morven had just completed a Modern Apprenticeship in Agriculture and was recently promoted to the position of Trainee Farm Manager at the Strathmore Farming Company based in Glamis, Forfar. She said:

“I love working outdoors, I have never wanted to do anything else and having my Modern Apprenticeship as well as my other agricultural qualifications has helped me progress to the next step in my career.”

Ms Constance added:

“Working in the food and drink sector is not just a viable option for Scotland’s young people, it is an attractive one.

“The value to Scotland of this industry means that there will always be opportunities for employment, including taking up a Modern Apprenticeship.

“It is absolutely vital that young people get good advice about where employment opportunities are coming from and a number of bodies have come together to craft this Investment Plan that will help ensure this happens.

“Employers too are set to benefit, as this work will train and develop a newly skilled workforce needed to compete in the global market and I hope to see our food and drink sector fully engaged and ready to maximise the potential of Scotland’s talented young workforce.”

James Withers, chief executive of Scotland Food & Drink said:

“Over recent years, the number of opportunities for young people within the food and drink industry has grown enormously and we are keen to ensure that the younger generation are equipped with the skills and knowledge required to grow our industry and cement our reputation as A Land of Food and Drink.

“We need to make sure that we are spreading the word that our industry is an attractive one to work in and persuade companies that young people are worth investing in. I look forward to the Food and Drink Skills Investment Plan delivering on these objectives.”

Paul McKelvie, Scotland Commissioner to the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES) and Skills Development Scotland Board member added:

“Skills investment plans are the cornerstone of public and private sector cooperation to ensure employers in Scotland’s key economic sectors get the help they need in developing a skilled workforce.”

Key activities of the plan include:

  • Providing better information about the skills needed to work in the industry and the range of jobs available on Skills Development Scotland’s online service My World of Work. Visit http://www.myworldofwork.co.uk/the-food-and-drink-industry for sample career management information pages.
  • Running a feasibility study into developing a Modern Apprenticeship Share Scheme for small, primary food producers.
  • Development of new “technical” MA frameworks for the sector
  • A pledge from industry to MAs and work placements and the creation of a database of work experience opportunities.
  • Identify circa 500 companies that have good growth potential who will be targeted by the Scotland Food and Drink Skills Academy and the Lantra Land-based Business Centre with the offer of training support.
  • Create new undergraduate sandwich course in food engineering/graduate internships.

Lantra the Sector Skills Council for primary food production predicts that 12,000 job opportunities will become available in food production in Scotland between 2010 and 2020. Improve the Sector Skills Council for food manufacture predicts that 16,000 job opportunities will become available in food manufacture in Scotland between 2007 and 2017.

The Scotland Food and Drink Skills Investment Plan has been developed and will be delivered by a range of partners: Scotland Food & Drink, Skills Development Scotland, Scottish Enterprise, Highland & Islands Enterprise Lantra, Improve, the Scottish Food and Drink Federation, the Scottish Funding Council, Scotland’s Colleges and trade associations.

More than 12,000 businesses employ 34,000 Modern Apprentices in a wide range of sectors, making a valuable contribution to Scotland’s economy.