Poundland skills week

Youngsters visiting Poundland

Feeding Britain’s Future (FBF) is back, only this year it’s set to be bigger and better. Launched in 2012, the scheme to teach skills in the food and drink sector was so successful that instead of running for one week in September, it will run for the whole month.

The new elongated form is hardly surprising when you consider the feedback from the 10,000 young people aged 16 to 24 that took part. A staggering 99% said it had been a “good use of their time”, 98% described it as either “excellent” or “good”, and 98% said they felt “more confident applying for a job” as a result of taking part.

Feedback from 2012 was overwhelmingly positive

99% agreed it was a good use of their time

98% said it was excellent or good

98% feel more confident after taking part

93% would consider working in the food and drink sector

It’s a completely different reception to the infamous ‘workfare’ schemes that hit the headlines in a blaze of publicity last year, when a 24-year-old art student called Cait Reilly sued the government for forcing her to abandon volunteering at a museum, in order to complete a four-week stint at Poundland.

Whereas workfare schemes demand the compulsory attendance of jobseekers for them to keep receiving benefits, FBF doesn’t force young people to do jobs. There is no mandatory attendance, there are no penalties, there are no job guarantees for those who take part, or expectations placed on employers to provide jobs.

“It was nice to be able to give young people something a little more real than they would experience via the job centre”

What does exist are genuine opportunities for young people to learn skills, to gain a better understanding of what employers look out for and also receive advice on how to present themselves if the opportunity for an interview arises.

So instead of working an eight-hour shift on the shop floor for little or no reward, it’s about taking a tour of a chocolate factory to see what goes on behind the scenes, or having a go at butchery, baking patisserie items or herding sheep. Fundamentally, it’s about equipping young people with knowledge and skills so they are better prepared to start looking for a career.

Dairy Crest Skills Week

Visitors to Dairy Crest

And while there are no job guarantees, the fact is that participants often end up with jobs (see box, right). One reason is the support of the industry, with more than 700 companies taking part last year, including the likes of Coca-Cola, Tesco, Brakes and Procter & Gamble.

For example, Walkers opened up its crisp factory, dairy Crest invited people into a dairy farm, while Premier Foods held skills training workshops at 10 of its UK manufacturing sites.

Job interviews

Burton’s Biscuit Company asked some of its management to hold mock interviews with some of the young people who attended a skills session at its head office.

Poundworld went one step further, offering some of the participants who toured its depot interviews for existing vacancies on the spot.

Unilever hailed the event as a “great success with great feedback from our attendees and from our own employees, who found it both rewarding and beneficial to have the chance to give something back to the local community”. 2 Sisters Food Group added: “It was nice to be able to give young people something a little more real than they would experience via the job centre”.

Dairy Crest Skills Week

Dairy Crest visitors experienced a taste of life on a farm

This year, as well as running Skills Week for four weeks instead of one, IGD is determined to get more young people involved, as well as to offer more opportunities. Any company interested in taking part can register on the IGD website.

“Whatever the size of your business and wherever you fit into the supply chain, I’d urge you to get involved in September’s Skills for Work Month to share your knowledge and experience with the next generation,” says IGD CEO Joanne Denney-Finch.

“This is an excellent opportunity to give young people the confidence and skills they need to thrive in the working world. Feeding Britain’s Future demonstrates the positive difference our industry can make when we work together.”

In the build-up to last year’s event, at the annual IGD Skills Summit, Booker CEO Charles Wilson told attendees: “We’ve got the farms, we’ve got the shops, the factories, the processors all over the country. This is where this industry matters because people matter, skills matter and communities matter.”

At the same event Mars UK president and IGD vice-president Fiona Dawson said that Mars wanted to “throw open its doors so people can come and see the variety of jobs that are there to be had.”

Even the Prime Minister weighed in: “10,000 young people will now have the opportunity to experience the industry first hand, encouraging them to develop the skills needed to ensure that Britain remains a global leader and producer - and that food remains a key part of our heritage,” said David Cameron.

Now, the window of opportunity is longer. So what are you waiting for? Not only can you give something back. You might find a brilliant new employee.

Case studies

Mark Burton Morrisons

Mark Burton 25, Totnes, works at Morrisons

“When my company went bust, I struggled to find a new job and Feeding Britain’s Future sounded like a win-win situation. I hadn’t worked in the food and grocery industry before, but the scheme sounded like a great opportunity and one I wanted to be part of. During my placement at Morrisons I got a taste of virtually every department and gained a real feel for the company. As well as this, the skills I learnt provided me with a great shot at a job when one came up.”

Kosar Bibi

Kosar Bibi

21, Oldbury, works at Sainsbury’s

“The Feeding Britain’s Future workshops were really helpful as they helped with my confidence when it came to applying for a job. It was also interesting to speak to people at Sainsbury’s about all the different jobs and training opportunities on offer. I’m really enjoying working as part of the team at Oldbury because it is always busy and the job is rewarding.”

John Comer, Greencore

John Comer

23, Warrington, works at Greencore

“I walked through the doors of the factory in Warrington and I was blown away by it. I embraced the opportunity, asked lots of questions and got involved. It’s so important for Greencore to do this because it’s about tapping the potential of young people. It requires some investment, but I feel I’ve brought energy and enthusiasm to the role - and will give a lot back in return for the opportunity.”