Processors invited to shape training scheme

Meat companies have been invited to contribute to a new training scheme in order to bridge the gap between processors and workers. The initiative could help reduce the meat industry’s need to rely on migrant workforce.

Partly funded by the government, the project includes a pre-employment training programme designed to ensure 600 currently unemployed people get a job in the food and drinks sector.

Skills company Improve, which helped put the initiative forward along with the National Skills Academy for Food and Drink, revealed that 36% of the meat industry’s work force is made of migrants, and that British people are generally unaware of opportunities in that sector.
Justine Fosh, director of the National Skills Academy for Food and Drink, told Meat Trades Journal: “The scheme is not meat-specific, but the meat industry is one of our highest priorities, as there are real barriers to recruit local workforce. People don’t know about the sector, and our research reveals that only 8% of unemployed people would think of the meat industry when looking for a job. Those who are interested have to compete with overseas skilled workers that are more appealing to employers.”

Made to match
In order to match employers’ expectancies with employees’ skills, organisers will adapt the scheme to industry demands. Fosh added: “Each company tells us what they need, and contribute with what they have to offer. For example, they could make facilities available for training, or provide protective gear. These costs are quite marginal, and they don’t have to pay for training.”
Improve chief executive Jack Matthews said: “Six hundred is a minimum objective, not a ceiling. We are looking forward for other companies to join the programme and make it much bigger.” The two skills companies are hoping to attract more people to the industry, as participants would still get their benefits during training, and be guaranteed a job at the end of it.
Other initiatives include the creation of a UK centre of excellence in food production engineering and a food engineering university programme designed by food companies. Fosh said: “It will be highly driven by company needs, as opposed to when universities organise it. Companies will also have their say in the way the degree is delivered, with or without spending time on site for example. We are hoping to launch the centre of excellence in September 2013.”
The government has agreed to inject £1.7m into the project, funding about half of the initiative. The rest will be paid for by the food and drink industry.

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