A poor image means the food trade is failing to attract the skilled workers it needs – threatening the innovation that is the industry’s lifeblood.

The stark warning was issued at the Food & Drink Federation’s ‘Attracting Talent & Increasing Productivity’ conference, held in association with the National Skills Academy for Food & Drink and skills body Improve.

Delegates were warned that the industry was facing a skills shortfall when the current generation of food scientists and technologists retire.

FDF competitiveness director Angela Coleshill said many young people felt the sector was “outdated”.

“Like many other manufacturing sectors, the food and drink industry suffers from a poor image against other career choices,” she said. “One in five food scientist and technologist vacancies remain hard to fill, which is a threat to our future ability to innovate.”

Meanwhile, Lidl and Tesco have both been lauded by the National Council for Work Experience for the internships they offer youngsters, picking up gongs at the training body's annual awards.

“Our placement provides students with an overall taste of discount retailing, actively exposing them to the wide range of career opportunities available," said Lidl recruitment manager Emily Hickman. "Interns leave the business more confident, with transferable skills and experiences.”

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‘Change the world through food’ says new campaign to lure young talent (9 March 2011)
Careers File: Young talent is out there, now go and track it down (27 November 2010)