Our industry faces a skills gap, especially in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) related roles, with engineering and science positions some of the hardest to recruit for.
However, in our research, 9% of year 12 students named engineering as their dream job, pointing to a growing talent pool. Our job is to help close this gap in knowledge about the potential the grocery industry holds for those with a STEM education.
As we move towards becoming even more automated, digital and high-tech, we expect demand for these roles to increase even further, so the industry is facing a competitive talent search. Bridging this skills gap relies on actively connecting with talent in schools and further education.
We have introduced dedicated STEM workshops to our Feeding Britain’s Future programme. Aimed at year 12 science and maths students, the workshops will feature volunteers from the industry that have a STEM background and are now working in industry roles as engineers, food scientists and technologists.
The government’s new careers strategy means schools are measured against eight Gatsby career benchmarks that define excellence in careers provision. The evolution of Feeding Britain’s Future, which has trained 25,000 students since 2015, now means we support schools in achieving five of these benchmarks.
Furthermore, we know teachers are often unable to give industry-specific advice about the opportunities available. Our research reveals 88% of educators want more interactions with employers. They are also interested in long-term engagement with companies and online resources that are aligned to the curriculum. So we have launched The Educator Hub - a free online resource that provides information about the industry through case studies, films and classroom activities.
There is a clear opportunity for the industry to engage with the next generation of talent by upping our game in face-to-face interactions - not least because students really value meeting professionals. Together we can ensure the industry has the skills it needs to thrive.
Fiona Miller is head of employability and skills at IGD