Press release

New food and farming degree apprenticeships to boost innovation

Environment Secretary brings together food sector experts and employers to create apprenticeships, boosting innovation in the food industry

The next generation of food entrepreneurs will have the opportunity to combine a high quality degree and on-the-job training under plans for new food degree apprenticeships, Environment Secretary Elizabeth Truss announced today.

The three apprenticeships – spearheaded by the National Skills Academy for Food and Drink (NSAFD) – are being developed by a consortium of employers and industry representatives working to enhance the sector’s productivity. The creation of the degrees will help safeguard the UK’s position as a world leader in high-tech food innovation which has seen us give the world tinned food, fizzy water and the chocolate bar. Today the UK produces more new food and drink products each year than France and Germany combined.

Last year the Government announced a target to treble the number of apprenticeships in food and farming by 2020 and the Food and Drink Federation (FDF) has estimated 109,000 new recruits are needed by 2022 in the food industry alone. Today the Environment Secretary brought together more than 30 food sector experts and employers to challenge the industry to provide more opportunities for young people.

The EU is a hugely important export market for British food and agriculture – around 60% of our food and drink exports go to EU generating around £11 billion for our economy. Maintaining our world leading food and farming industry is dependent on continued access to the EU market with no barriers. Thousands of young people benefit from valuable apprenticeships across the EU through support from the European Social Fund and European Regional Development Fund, providing the bright new talent needed to deliver growth in the UK. The Government is doubling the annual level of spending on apprenticeships between 2010-11 and 2019-20 in cash terms to £2.5 billion, which will be funded by the new apprenticeship levy.

Environment Secretary Elizabeth Truss said:

We have a proud heritage in food innovation – from Fry’s first ever chocolate bar to HP Sauce. Today we outstrip France and Germany when it comes to exciting new food and drink inventions.

Food and farming should be a top career destination for our young people, as prestigious as medicine, as fun and stimulating as the gaming industry and as cutting-edge as London’s Tech City.

We are already seeing more skilled workers enter the industry – rising faster than other areas of manufacturing – and these new degree apprenticeship schemes will provide an even brighter future in an industry that generates billions of pounds for our growing economy.

Skills Minister Nick Boles said:

It used to be that some careers were only an option if you went to university – we’re changing that with degree apprenticeships. They give young people the chance to get on in life like never before and ensure businesses have the talented workforce they need to grow.

Over the last couple of months I’ve been meeting talented apprentices working in the food sector – from Nestle to Rick Stein’s, apprenticeships are a real alternative for those who want to start their careers in this ever growing industry.

The roundtable today will provide an opportunity to secure ongoing commitment from industry to encourage new apprenticeship schemes and highlight the support available to companies seeking to expand their programmes. Some good examples of progress are below:

  • Mars UK currently employs 52 apprentices across the country and invest more than £1 million each year for these recruits. The company is recruiting up to 28 new apprentices in 2016.
  • Nestlé’s commitment to growth saw 46 apprentices start their careers in 2015,bringing the total number of apprentices at Nestlé to almost 150, working in engineering, technical and commercial roles. . Nestlé executives bring their expertise to the Government’s Trailblazer scheme - shaping tomorrow’s apprenticeships.
  • Premier Foods employs 26 apprentices having made a commitment in 2014 to double their intake as part of an expansion programme which also saw the opening of a dedicated Apprentice Training Centre at the Mr Kipling bakery in 2015.

Angela Coleshill, Director of Competitiveness at FDF, said:

We know that there are significant skills challenges facing our industry, from an ageing workforce to talent shortages and specific technical skills gaps. Left unaddressed, these challenges risk undermining future productivity improvements in our sector.

This is why, as an industry, we have set out a target to increase the number of apprentices in our workforce from 1% to 3% by 2020. Working with key partners such as the team at the UKCES, the NSA for Food and Drink and industry representatives, we have committed to a set of ambitious collaborative actions on skills and talent that will have a demonstrable impact on the productivity of the industry.

The Government is committed to creating 3 million high quality apprenticeships by 2020, including many more at degree level - with a target to ensure 2.3% of workers in the public sector are apprentices.

Notes to editors

  1. The new degree apprenticeships will be focused on Food Engineering, Food Science and Dairy Technology. The degrees are part of the Government’s Productivity Plan and the Talent Pipeline project led by the Food and Drink Federation (FDF) which brings together industry representatives to collaborate to create a set of actions on skills and talent to enhance the productivity of the industry.
  2. The Food and Drink Federation will be working in partnership with the National Skills Academy for Food and Drink (NSAFD) and the National Centre for Universities and Business (NCUB) to develop the new Degree Apprenticeship qualifications.
  3. In December 2015, The Food and Drink Federation announced their Apprenticeships Pledge to increase apprentices to 3% of the workforce in December 2015.
  4. FDF President and Nestlé CEO and Chairman Fiona Kendrick is representing the food and drink sector alongside a group of senior business leaders, led by Sir Charlie Mayfield, who is Chairman of the John Lewis Partnership, to look at how business should improve productivity. FDF is leading a workstream on how skills and talent can improve productivity as part of this Mayfield project.