Skills gap found throughout food supply chain

A landmark report has claimed that large sectors of the food supply chain are operating below agreed minimum skill levels, with many employees not possessing qualifications at the expected levels.

The Food Supply Chain Report, published by Improve, the food and drink skills council, is the first comprehensive overview of the five sectors that make up the entire UK food supply chain (FSC). Looking at primary production, food and drink manufacturing and processing, food wholesale, food retail and hospitality, it identified a series of skills shortages throughout the industry.

It found that 79% of all employees in skilled trade roles in primary production and 64% of employees in management roles in primary production did not possess qualifications at the expected level. Other problems identified included over-reliance on migrant labour, shortages of food scientists and technologists, a high incidence of hard-to-fill vacancies due to skills shortages, and a high replacement demand for workers.

Jack Matthews, chief executive of Improve, said: “In an industry where competitive advantage is often determined by the ability to respond to a myriad of rapidly changing external influences, skills are absolutely essential. To drive and adapt to change, to embrace the latest technology and processes, to reduce impact on the environment and maintain a secure consistent supply while still delivering premium products and good value, you need a highly skilled workforce.

“This report shows clearly that employers across the FSC share the same views on where skills development should be focused to drive better performance, so by working together we can develop solutions that benefit all sectors of the industry.”

The FSC is the UK’s largest employer, accounting for 14 per cent of the total UK workforce and contributing £412bn in turnover to the UK economy.

The report will be used as a basis for planning future policy in relation to skills investment, food security, public health and sustainability.