Food industry skills gap tackled by degree apprenticeship scheme

A new degree apprenticeship could plug the food manufacturing skills gap

New degree apprenticeships will help to plug the skills gap in food and drink manufacturing, thanks to a funding award from the government, according to the University of Lincoln’s National Centre for Food Manufacturing (NCFM).

The UK’s first degree in Food Engineering, Technical Management and Operations Management will be led by NCFM, as part of a national programme to develop new opportunities for apprentices.

The Holbeach-based NCFM has secured a share of the £4.5M degree apprenticeship development fund to help create new courses.

NCFM will deliver the courses in collaboration with Sheffield Hallam University and the National Skills Academy Food & Drink (NSAFD) as part of the newly formed Degree Apprenticeship Food Industry Partnership.

High-tech and high-level

The new degree apprenticeships are designed to teach graduates high-tech and high-level skills and bring together university study with paid work.

Professor Val Braybrooks, dean of the NCFM, said the degree would teach apprentices the higher level skills needed by the food and drink industry and would attract young talent.

“Degree apprenticeships offer an exciting new way to deliver the higher level skills needed by the industry,” said Braybrooks. “Employers and universities are working together to develop high quality workplace training complemented by part-time, flexible degree level study, which will both attract young talent and reward and enhance the skills of existing employees.”  

Phase one of the degree apprenticeships will see the development of 18 projects involving higher education providers and employers working in partnership. The new apprenticeships will start in September 2017. Combining university study with paid work, degree apprenticeships will spend part of their time at university and part with their employer.

2 Sisters Food Group, Princes and Moy Park

Supporting the degree apprenticeships are the Food and Drink Federation (FDF) and leading food manufacturers, such as Nestlé, 2 Sisters Food Group, Princes and Moy Park.

The FDF said the new degree apprenticeships will help remedy the skills gap in food engineering, technical management and operations management.

FDF competitiveness director Angela Coleshill said: “The food and drink industry will need 130,000 new recruits by 2024 to meet the skills needs of our sector,” said the federation’s competitiveness director Angela Coleshill.

“We believe this type of collaborative working between industry and educational institutions will provide us with the next generation of our industry's advanced engineers and leaders.”

NSAFD chief executive Justine Fosh said the organisation was working with employers and the universities to develop employer led ‘industry standards’. Fosh added: “We are elated that teh food and drink manufacturing industry will be at the forefront of these developments, which are set to transform higher level skills into the future.” 

Meanwhile, the food and drink industry represents the single largest manufacturing sector in the UK, contributing more than £100bn to the national economy.  

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