Swizzels Matlow and Kensey Foods are the first food companies to offer staff a new qualification.

The Food Manufacturing Excellence Qualification developed by Improve launches next month and covers strategy, leadership, management, lean manufacturing and sustainable business strategy. It is one of the new Improve Proficiency Qualifications based on the skills staff would need to carry out particular roles.

"There is huge potential within the food and drink industry for a qualification that combines hygiene and food safety regulations with the application of lean techniques," said Swizzels Matlow training manager Tony Salt.

"This qualification is totally adaptable to individual companies' strategies, marking a step-change in the control employers have over training."

Improve development director Derek Williams added: "It gives employers the flexibility to specify what they want their employees to do and how to improve performance, as well as to work with providers to ensure training meets their needs. After the process, employers have a workforce that has both the skills needed and recognised qualifications."