The UK food and grocery business employs around 3.5 million people and generates annual sales in excess of £133 bn. It accounts for 49p in every £1 of retail spending and groceries are the third highest household expense behind housing and transport. And it's a relatively resilient industry in times of recession .

The sheer size, scale and scope of this business and the great opportunies it offers to progress from the shop floor or the production line to the boardroom - Justin King's rise from a production shift manager at Mars to CEO of Sainsbury's is a prime example - should make it one of the most sought-after professions for anyone wanting to carve out a career in a dynamic, diverse, challenging and rewarding environment.

But if the industry is going to attract and retain the most talented people, it has to do a much better job in projecting itself as a 'top box' career choice, rather than a default option. With the challenges facing the grocery trade, we need to be recruiting people who have the flair, panache and passion to develop creative solutions.

At grass roots level, the industry needs to play a more active role within the education system to ensure future employees - school leavers and graduates - have the necessary skills to succeed within our business.

McDonald's approach to providing employees - including those who are without any formal qualifications - with 24/7 access to educational training modules so they can progress at their own pace and at a time that fits in with their other commitments is to be applauded.

More companies are waking up to the 'career versus job' concept and understand it's the whole package - culture, opportunity to contribute and potential to develop - that attracts the best and most committed candidates.

Training at all levels needs to be ongoing, embedded in the culture and form an intrinsic part of the long-term business strategy.

This is very much the case at Müller UK, where we aim to create an environment in which employees can flourish. As well as work experience and vocational training such as NVQ apprenticeships, we have internal coaching programmes delivered by key executives.

Where employees demonstrate the potential to develop skills in other areas we seek to secure work placements for them across different functions within our business. Engaged and committed employees are the key to success. The people who know best how to make improvements are the people who do the job day in, day out, and companies need to ensure front-line staff throughout the business are fully involved and empowered in their work by support and training.

This premise formed the basis of the Müller UK 'In Every Fridge' Discovery Map programme, which embraced everyone within the company and was shortlisted for the John Sainsbury Award for Learning and Development in the IGD Food Industry Awards 2008.

Business requirements are constantly changing and workplace training needs to ensure all personnel are equipped to manage new expectations and demands. This includes senior leaders, who must be committed to continuing their own development and recognise that skills they have today may not be good enough for tomorrow.

Stewart Gilliland is CEO of Müller UK.