Scottish action plan targets higher level skills

An action plan designed to help Scotland’s food and drink employers attract a new generation of skilled professionals has been launched by the industry. The skills investment plan for Scotland’s food and drink sector features a series of measures aimed at helping businesses find fresh talent, develop leadership and management skills and boost growth through innovation and efficiency.

It hopes to build on progress since the publication of the first skills investment plan for the sector in 2012, with the new plan again facilitated by Skills Development Scotland (SDS) in partnership with industry. The sector is forecast to need 27,000 entrants over the next 10 years, with an increasing emphasis on higher skilled and professional positions.

To mark the launch of the plan, seafood producer Dawnfresh welcomed cabinet secretary for the rural economy and connectivity Fergus Ewing, to its plant in Uddingston, where he met with some of the firm’s modern apprentices and graduate trainees.

“Scotland has a burgeoning reputation for quality food and drink and the sector is recognised as a key growth area for our economy,” he says. “However, we are aware of the challenges posed by the current economic uncertainty, particularly in the wake of the Brexit vote. It is vital that the Scottish government, together with industry and stakeholders, are aligned in order to meet these challenges, one of which is continuing access to the skills and talent required to deliver projected growth. I welcome the launch of this skills and investment plan for the food and drink industry, which will increase access to training and development opportunities and support innovation across the sector.”

Scotland’s food and drink sector has enjoyed strong growth in recent years, with 17,500 firms employing nearly 120,000 people, generating annual sales of £14.4 billion. There are now 250 food and drink ambassadors engaging with schools and attending careers events to promote the industry and the diverse range of jobs available, and new modern apprenticeship frameworks have been introduced in food manufacturing excellence and aquaculture technical.

Neville Prentice, senior director of service development and delivery at SDS, says, “There is a growing demand within Scotland’s food and drink sector for the higher level skills that will allow employers to boost productivity, improve efficiency and make use of new technologies. Workforce development is central to fulfilling this demand, and also to help employers deal with the uncertainties arising from factors such as Brexit. The new skills investment plan offers a framework through which we can invest in the future of the sector and help businesses of all sizes grasp opportunities for growth in an increasingly global and competitive marketplace.”

James Withers, chief executive of Scotland Food & Drink, adds, “The creation of the Scotland Food & Drink Partnership has brought a renewed focus to the skills agenda, one of the fundamental building blocks of our strategy. Our partners in the public sector and private sector are crystal clear that we need to increase our investment in – and, crucially, our commitment to – skills development. The priorities of the Skills Investment Plan reflect the issues faced by employers across the sector and offer a framework for action that could deliver real and lasting benefits to the industry.”

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