Scientist need for food and drink sector –

Scientist need for food and drink sector Published:  14 November, 2006

FOOD and drink manufacturers are being urged to help with new programmes to train more food scientists and technologists for the sector, in order to avoid a looming skills shortage.

The call comes from Improve, the food and drink sector skills council, which, after carrying out the largest skills research project ever undertaken in the sector, concluded that over the next eight years food and drink manufacturing will face a shortfall of 13,000 scientific and technical staff.

“We need to attract more scientists to the sector in order to tackle the skills shortage and help maximise productivity,” explained Jack Matthews, chief executive of Improve. ”It’s vital that employers work with us to develop effective ways to solve this problem.

“For example, we believe that the creation of postgraduate conversion courses will be a key way to boost the supply of scientific and technical workers in the sector. However, we need employers’ help to determine the content of the programmes, and to agree to offer sponsorship and work placements.

“And looking at the deeper root of the problem, more school pupils must be encouraged to study science at GSCE, and young people urged to consider food and drink as a relevant and rewarding career choice. Employers need to help engage potential recruits by, for example, giving talks at local schools, appearing at careers fairs, or offering work experience.”

The research by Improve has been carried out as part of the development process for the Sector Skills Agreement for food manufacturing. Scheduled for launch in Spring 2007, it will provide an action plan that will, for the first time, map out a clear strategy to boost skills, as agreed by employers, the government, funding bodies and learning providers.

The research process has identified the skills gaps in the current workforce and the training priorities needed to close those gaps. The next development stage is now underway, with an extensive employer consultation to find workable solutions to help close the skills gaps.

“The Sector Skills Agreement will only be successful if it is developed in collaboration with employers,” continued Mr Matthews. “We are currently talking to employers to find out how proposed plans to boost skills would work in practice, and to see how much time and effort employers are willing to invest to ensure their success.”

Employers are urged to join the consultation by visiting the Improve website at, or contacting their regional operations manager on 0845 644 0448. is published by Special Publications. Special Publications also publish FISHupdate magazine, Fish Farmer, the Fish Industry Yearbook, the Scottish Seafood Processors Federation Diary, the Fish Farmer Handbook and a range of wallplanners.