Companies in the food industry are working on a skills action plan to make the sector more attractive to young people and plug an existing skills gap.

Overseen by the Food & Drink Federation, the IGD, the National Farmers’ Union and the National Skills Academy, the plan will focus on improving the sector’s image and identifying and gaps in training.

Justine Fosh of the NSA said there was “huge concern” the food industry was routinely being overlooked by young people deciding on a career.

“The pay is above average and there is renewed interest in food generally, yet we do not get more people interested,” she told the Westminster Food & Nutrition Forum yesterday. “We need to do more to stimulate demand by informing and educating young people.”

A new strategy could see employers switch from talking about career prospects to highlighting the potential to “change the world” through a career in food and drink, Fosh said.

The plan’s developers will also explore to what extent more hands-on training options, such as apprenticeships and ‘earn and learn’ courses, could help make the industry more attractive to youngsters.

Fosh warned that too much training in the sector centred on basic, factory floor-level training rather than more advanced skills such as food science and technology.

“There is not enough investment at the moment to generate a competitive advantage for the UK,” warned Fosh.

She said the wider industry could learn much from the example of the dairy trade in developing best practice.

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