A new partnership between the government and industry has been launched to tackle the lack of food manufacturing skills in England.

The Industry Skills Partnership, backed by £2m of government funding and £1m from the industry, will see the likes of Thorntons, Nestlé, Premier Foods, Britvic, 2 Sisters and Arla work with trade groups and retailers.

Industry figures are to be recruited in the coming weeks to lead the partnership, which will then draw up plans to tackle issues such as the shortage of homegrown food and drink engineers, which has caused the industry to be highly reliant on an immigrant workforce.

“Food and drink processing now employs more than 300,000 people in England alone,” said skills minister Nick Boles. “This new partnership will allow the industry to develop the skills and talent it needs to grow and compete on the global stage.”

Thorntons chief executive Jonathan Hart welcomed the support provided by government. “The partnership is here to tackle the big issues such as the chronic lack of scientific skills in food manufacturing as well as exports, global reputation and the kind of innovation necessary to produce quality products more efficiently, effectively and sustainably.”

Fiona Kendrick, chairman and CEO of Nestlé UK, added: “Through industry-wide collaboration, we can now solve the skills challenges we all share.”