A new skills strategy is to be launched later this week as leading figures from the food and drink industry seek to boost skills and attract the next generation of workers.
With the value of the sector continuing to grow, the Food and Drink Wales Industry Board consulted widely to create the first industry-led skills strategy in a bid to tackle looming problems posed by an ageing workforce, difficulty in attracting and retaining talent, along with the uncertainties to future labour supplies post-Brexit.
Food and drink manufacturing already employs over 20,000 people in Wales and wages have grown 13% since 2012. The key aim of the skills plan is to create a positive shift in the perception of the industry and promote the many exciting careers within it.
To underline its importance a host of leading companies, including Halen Môn, Bangor Mussels and Puffin Produce have signed up to a Welsh skills pledge, with others set to follow at the conference and over the coming weeks. As part of the pledge, they will commit to a range of actions including sending company ambassadors into schools, hosting visits at their manufacturing sites and promoting career opportunities within their local communities.
Another key element of the plan is to address the skills shortages that constrain productivity. This will be done by increasing the uptake of apprenticeships through creating industry designed and appropriately funded courses.
One of the first examples of this in action will be the launch of a new level 3 apprenticeship in food engineering. In response to research indicating an existing skills gap, businesses and industry skills partnerships have come together to design a bespoke course to meet current needs. It is envisaged that this approach will be the blueprint for future collaboration as the industry continues to work closely with Welsh Government in developing fit for purpose apprenticeship courses that drive innovation and increase productivity.
Chair of the Food and Drink Wales Industry Board, Andy Richardson said,
“It’s been a great experience to work closely with so many people across the sector on the creation of what is essentially an industry-led solution to one of the main problems facing businesses.
“By listening closely to those who work daily in the industry, we now understand more about what they need to help them grow. As a board, we’re determined to press ahead with the implementation of the plan and work with wider stakeholders on raising the profile of some of the fantastic careers available in our successful food and drink industry.”
Cabinet Secretary for Energy, Planning and Rural Affairs, Lesley Griffiths, added: “This is an industry initiative which has been developed with the support of government and is another shining example of the value of collaborative work. I am as always grateful to the board who enthusiastically give their time and energy to drive growth in the food and drink sector.
“I was particularly pleased to see the plan covers key areas around increasing apprenticeships and boosting skills and innovation. These proposals are very much in line with our recently published Economic Action Plan and I look forward to working with the board to deliver on these.”