The Apprentice is not only a hit BBC show that has captured the imagination of UK viewers for an impressive seventh series. It also flags up the importance of and challenges associated with finding and nurturing talent for Britain’s businesses.

This is why at this year’s Community Partnership Awards, we invited Tim Campbell, The Apprentice winner and adviser to the Mayor of London on training and enterprise, to announce our industry pledge to double the number of apprenticeships in food and drink manufacturing in England and Scotland by the end of 2012. We are calling on manufacturers to sign up to our pledge and contribute in any way they can whether by offering 10 or 100 apprenticeships.

Apprenticeships are a fantastic way to attract talent for the future and bring many benefits to businesses including increased productivity, improved competitiveness and a motivated workforce.

I got to experience this first hand at our fringe event at a party conference recently, where we invited two apprentices to speak about their training and ambitions to promote our careers campaign Taste Success A Future in Food. What struck me most about these apprentices was their outstandingly positive attitude and knowledge. It drove home to me that these are the sorts of young people that our industry needs.

We chose to recognise this in our annual Community Partnership Awards with an Apprentice of the Year Award, demonstrating our commitment to working with young people. Congratulations to Kraft apprentice Calum Marnock who won, and to Kraft for spotting his talent while he was working in a temporary role and encouraging him to apply for an apprenticeship.

Over the past year, we have been working hard to keep the food industry as a key manufacturing sector. This has been recognised and we have established several very successful partnerships that have put our industry at the heart of decision-making. Critical to this is our skills base - we need young people such as Calum to take us forward and to inspire the next generation of talent so crucial to our success.

Terry Jones is director of communications at the FDF