The industry is the UK’s biggest employer with over 440,000 employees, many of whom are school or college leavers apprenticed to some of the UK’s biggest brands. However, the Food and Drink Federation (FDF), the voice of UK food manufacturers, is keen to dispel some of the negative images around careers in manufacturing.
FDF Director of HR Angela Coleshill says: “We want to tackle the myth that food manufacturing is all hairnets and wellies. There are many opportunities with food companies in development and research, science and safety as well as marketing, HR and finance. The sector is well paid with excellent prospects and is surviving the economic uncertainty well. We are urging young people to consider apprenticeships and encouraging food manufacturers to look at where they could make these opportunities available in their companies.”
One such successful example is Philip Elliot, engineering apprentice at United Biscuits in Carlisle. He says: “An apprenticeship enables you to learn as well as earn and gives you an opportunity to obtain hands-on relevant training, which helps you gain practical skills which you cannot get from any other method. Taking an apprenticeship can be whatever you make of it and is an excellent way of progressing through large organisations to enhance your career.”
Hazel Elderkin, who manages the apprenticeship programme for Unilever explains their need for ‘home-grown’ employee talent. She says: “Our factories are becoming more complex as a result of product innovation and advancements in technology. At the same time, market place recruitment is becoming more difficult as there is a limited talent pool to select them from.”