Premier Foods in bid to help STEM skills take-off

Premier Foods backed the event to help STEM skills take off

Premier Foods showcased food manufacturing to Lincolnshire school children at an event designed to promote Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) subjects this week.

Staged at RAF Scampton, Lincolnshire – home of the Red Arrows display team – on Monday June 13, the event aimed to persuade girls to study STEM skills.

As part of Premier Foods’s presentation, more than 60 children took part in exercises that demonstrated the firm’s kitchen-to-plant manufacturing process.

In the ‘supernoodle challenge’, children were asked to mix, cut and fry noodles before tasting them, a process that was loosely based on the process Premier’s engineers use.

TV quiz show Countdown presenter Rachel Riley was also at the event and gave advice to children and highlighted career options available to them when taking STEM subjects.

Women are certainly under-represented in STEM subjects and that’s from an early age,” said Riley.

‘Dropping those barriers’

Today is about dropping those barriers – just ignore them, they’re fictional. If you’re a girl, if you’re a boy and you enjoy a subject, go and do it.”

The event was run by RAF Scampton in association with the Education Business Partnership and has run annually for the past three years.

Other big businesses taking part at the event included car manufacturers Aston Martin and Landrover, as well as mobile communications company Siemens.

Skills gap increase

The latest shortfall of skilled workers in the industry was likely to be revised up from 107,000 to 130,000 people between now and by 2025, according to the National Skills Academy for Food & Drink.

Initiatives to promote STEM skills and encourage more women into the sector were praised by the Food and Drink Federation (FDF).

Scale of the skills gap

FDF competitiveness director Angela Coleshill highlighted the scale of the skills gap facing the sector.

“Food and drink manufacturing will require 130,000 new workers by 2024 to meet the needs of a growing sector requiring more highly technical skills,” said Coleshill.

FDF members have committed to increase the amount of apprentices as a percentage of the workforce in the food and drink manufacturing sector from 1% to 3% by 2020.

“FDF members see this as a key enabler to growing a stronger talent pipeline in our sector.”

Meanwhile, the lack of workers with STEM skills was not a result of problems with the British education system but due to employers unwillingness to offer high wages to suitably skilled workers, according to the University of Warwick.

Dr Thijs van Rens, associate professor in the University of Warwick’s department of economics and lead researcher, said the market wages did not reflect the demand for different types of skills.

“Businesses complain about the lack of workers with STEM skills but are unwilling to raise wages for these workers – or reduce wages for workers with skills that are less in demand,” said Rens.

 

Rachel Riley – Countdown Host

Today is about dropping those barriers – just ignore them, they’re fictional. If you’re a girl, if you’re a boy and you enjoy a subject, go and do it.”

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